Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin

Today I watched Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin (2008)


Painted Skin is a Chinese tragic romantic fantasy film, set in the mythical past.  The story concerns a demon who has disguised herself as a human to romantically pursue a general in the Imperial army.  While the story has a lot of merit, this film really mishandles its material and fails to fully explore the themes it inherently brings up.

The cast do admirably considering the material they are given, in a more competently directed film this cast would have done wonders.  Donnie Yen, of Ip Man, Hero, and Drunken Tai-Chi fame, gives the best performance of the bunch, he gives the kind of performance that takes a flatly written character and gives it intense depth.  But that is not to say the rest of the performances are bad, far from it, they just labour under the weight of poor writing.

Technically this film is all over the place, the cinematography has moments of brilliance but the soundtrack is cheesy, over the top, and intrusive in many scenes. There is some real creativity in some of the visual ideas, but in a lot of cases the effects look cheap, combined with an odd sense of pacing, it looks almost like a made for television production.

When the movie slows down and gives the actors space, it has some solid moments, but it cannot sustain this.  The pacing is frustratingly brisk for the film’s complicated narrative and robs it of emotional depth.  On top of that the editing is choppy and frequently distracting.  But the strong cast and level of creativity kept me from being truly bored or feeling like I wasted my time.  2/5


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