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"The comparisons to Crouching Tiger, Storm Riders and The Duel-type films and the Korean Bichunmoo are certainly justified: it IS a kung fu, sword flick, flavored with a love story. But Bichunmoo is a masterpiece in itself that can stand up to these comparisons; you can even argue that this, the most well-rounded of these type of films to date, should be the standard to which the others, even the cinematographically superior Crouching Tiger, should be compared to.At the heart of the story are Jinha Yu and Sullie, whose tragic, star-crossed relationship is the thread that holds the movie together. She is rich and Mongol royalty; he is an orphaned Koryo commoner (or so we are made to believe), and fate refuses to let the relationship take place. The pair elopes and are hunted down by Sullie's family and Jungkwang, a young lord her family favors. Despite Jinha's expertise in the legendary Bichin Secrets, rumored to be the most powerful of all martial arts, passed on to him by a dying uncle, he succumbs to the pursuers and falls from a cliff. Sullie reluctantly marries Jungkwang.The years go by and while Jungkwang is away on business, his castle falls quite easily to another faction, thanks to a group of highly skilled assassins headed by a bitter, darker, cold-blooded Jinha. Trouble follows as both struggle to reconcile who they once were with what they have become.Bichunmoo trumps Crouching Tiger in that the story is self-contained, not a mere snapshot. We see Jinha and Sullie develop not only relationship-wise, but as children meeting for the first time and growing to adulthood. In contrast Li Mubai and Shulien (of Crouching Tiger) are captured in mid-life, with plenty of history between them the we never get to know. The cinematic feel isn't as grand, and is more like the Once Upon A Time In China series--basically shot like early Jet Li and Jackie Chan films. But there is grandeur to it--the beautiful shots of Sullie mourning and waiting for Jinha, or her deceiving dance in front of the emperor, or the flashbacks to their childhood--all utilize the soft, slow-motion, leaves floating, silk flying atmosphere. The swordfights are somewhere between Crouching Tiger and The Duel--more CG special effects than Crouching Tiger and more choreography and martial arts skill than The Duel. Bichunmoo has no real weak spots. The back story is extensive enough to make you feel like you know the characters, but not so overwhelming that it creates questions. The battles and love scenes all have a purpose, with no chance encounters or accidental street brawls. The lack of star power is in name only; Shin Hyun-Jun's brooding, tormented Jinha is convincingly depressing, revengeful and regretful, as Kim Hae-Sun's Sullie is beautiful, determined and vulnerable. Your girl can shed tears and use up the Kleenex, while you watch with dropped jaw at the spectacular metalwork, slicing and dicing with superhuman effects.Be sure to turn the DVD language setting to Korean; it usually defaults to the Chinese voice, which will create an unsettling voice-not-matching-mouth viewing. Don't worry, the Korean cast is extremely talented. No martial arts or Asian film collection would be complete without it; other film collectors won't just be diversifying but upgrading their DVD shelves. A well-deserved five stars for the biggest budget film in Korean history."
Great Great movie!
A. Breitweg | United States | 01/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Korean martial arts film is one of the best Martial Arts films I have seen as of yet! It relies as much on the romantic/revenge plot as the cinematography and the fight scenes. It is lyrical, majestic and utterly captivating. I too wanted to "dance with the sword" after watching this. Great movie!!! It is the essential Romeo and Juliet plot and yet it is so much more. It is stunning and a dizzying swirl of beauty. A great period piece in Korean cinema. The only detracting quality of this movie is the soundtrack and its descrepancy with scene. There is this rock sounding song pulsating out of a scene that really doesn't fit in the time period or the tone. But overall great movie!"
Swashbuckling Heroes, Bold Villains, and Beautiful Damsels~"
T. Choong | Singapore, ------- Singapore | 06/08/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Pugilistic romance invokes the return to a legendary or historical world possessing its individual codes of honour, and also, imminent tensions between the sexes and warriors of dividing loyalties. The Korean blockbuster film, "Bichunmoo," satisfies these criteria by harkening back to China's Yuan dynasty, controlled by the descendants of Genghis Khan, but facing serious opposition in insurgent anti-Yuan forces, thus invoking imminent political tensions between the different races of Mongolian, Han Chinese, and ancient Koryos (Koreans) as they each struggle for power within this cinematic mosaic. Imbedded within this narrative of war and dividing loyalties is, however, also the other implication that love is capable of transcending all considerations of race, class, and even death, thereby propelling it into the realm of legend. Enacting the element of romance as a pair of star-crossed lovers are the characters of Yu Jinha, an apprentice in the much-coveted art of Bichunmoo swordplay, and Sullie, his childhood sweetheart, also daughter to a Mongolian general's concubine. Computer-animated sequences of Jinha and Sullie's days together paint the whole trajectory from a rosy picture of a childhood romance set in a pastoral fantasy to a matured love as adults amidst a winter landscape. All does not go well, as Romeo does indeed face his Tybalt in the faces of class, race, and power struggle. Sullie's mother is taken ill, and the return of her father, General Tagura, from civil war to claim her back forces them apart, as he decides upon a potential husband for his daughter in the Han family of Namgung Junguang. The dirty linen of both the Tagura and Namgung families, namely their cruel extermination of Jinha's family, Koryos held hostage in China as bodyguards to the Crown Prince, for the sake of obtaining the Bichun Secrets, is gradually exposed, and further forces the lovers apart in this tussle over power. Capturing the blighted affair as a piece of flashback in time, complete with Namgung Junguang's befriending of Jinha and his betraying Jinha out of rivalry in love, the film takes a leap ahead in time to many years later when Jinha finally returns in a new name, Jahalang ( literally 'wolf of the purple dusk'), and declares his allegiances alongside the anti-Mongol forces. The character of Jinha, who is enacted by Shin Hyun-June, currently a popular actor in Korean drama serials, retains the element of boyish innocence in his handling of relationships of love and friendship, but the rapid switch in character as he faces his enemies is remarkably sinister. Kim Hee Sun's portrayal of Sullie is by no means impressive, but retains the aura of beauty around the character as the woman whom Namgung Junguang and Yu Jinha are both besotted with to the point of their deaths. Inevitable in this return of the tragic hero in the narrative is the unearthing of age-old tensions between opposing races, clan loyalties, and family loyalties. What appears to be the feuds of yester-year take on a new twist, as Jinha exacts his revenge upon his parents' murderers, but realizes to his own shock, that his benefactors are equally covetous of the Bichun Secrets , and that Sullie's sudden agreement to marry into the Namgung family was not betrayal but an attempt to prevent his own son from perishing unnecessarily as a love-child born out of wedlock. Namgung Junguang's character is no less ambiguous as he repents his betrayal of many years ago and gives up his right to both his wife and his son-in-name by a surprising act of self-sacrifice. Common to every pugilistic narrative is the expectation of lush, breath-taking cinematography, fast-paced martial arts action and immaculate fighting sequences with their flair for the most fantastic and graphic details of violence. In importing Hong Kong talent, Ma Yuk-Shing, who has directed the martial arts moves for various Hong Kong kung fu movies, "Bichunmoo" is no less like its recent predecessor, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," in proving the predominance of the cross-cultural and international trend that Asian cinema is gradually moving towards. It amalgamates the graphic details common to Akira Kurosawa's samurai films, in their dismembering of opponents in battle, with the stylized moves of swordplay and martial arts found in the Chinese kung fu film, to mention a few, fei tian dun di (flying in the sky and going under ground level literally), balancing on the tip of a swordblade, and the interlocking of sword with ringed sabre in order to parry the offensive blow. Riding upon the back of an age-old formula of 'love lost, love regained but foiled catastrophically once again', "Bichunmoo" is another statement in the blockbuster movie genres that rings with familiarity in its elements of swashbuckling heroes, bold villains, and beautiful damsels. But it is always the familiar that finds its favour with the audience, and in this case, pugilistic narrative itself is a test case in point."
One of the best Martial Arts Stories I've seen
Tobin Staley | Sacramento, CA USA | 11/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bichunmoo is a story of love between a Korean boy and Chinese girl spanning their lives. The Korean is a great martial artist and the keeper of a secret technique called the Bichun Secret. There is friendship, love, betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness in this tale.
Beautifully shot and acted with wonderful action and story, this movie is only held back by the fact that they try to do too much. The pacing is off, almost as if there where scenes that were completely left out. Beacuse of this problem the story can become confusing. Watch it a couple times and things will fall into place and you will see the beauty of the story they are telling."
Big on Action, Small on Story
L. Mulei | USA | 09/05/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I wonder if the movie I saw is the same that many of the others here have reviewed? The fight scenes are fun and imaginative, but the story is very poorly constructed. The best word I can use to describe the plot is `choppy'. It's almost as if the movie is an adaptation of a famous novel or legend everyone should know and that the director decided it was sufficient to touch upon the major points in the story and ignore the details.
The entire movie is filled with scenes that don't logically follow the last, again, as if it is assumed the viewer should already be intimately familiar with the work; or that half of the movie was poorly edited out at the last minute. Major new characters are introduced with no warning, and significant events unfold with no exposition or apparently take place off-screen entirely. It's not that you can't follow what's going on, exactly, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this movie is not.
It's strictly Okay, but nothing special. I'm not going to throw it into the trash can or anything, but I'm glad I bought it used."