masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

Sword In The Moon 청풍명월 2003

sword.jpgSometimes happiness (or contentment at least) is within easy reach. In this case it is Choi Min-su 최민수 and a sword that make for a great night. Sword In The Moon 청풍명월 is a historical epic of distinct Korean provenance, but filled to the brim with influences of and references to the wuxia 武狹 and chambara genres. Lacking the superhuman martial feats of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the Korean Shadowless Sword 無影劍 and Bichunmoo 飛天舞, the extremely stylized and detailed choreography is gritty and looks as realistic as Japanese chambara movies. The grittiness, the copious amounts of blood and the melodrama make clear that this is a Korean production in the tradition of Musa. Choi is the righteous bodyguard of the king who is betrayed by his best friend and comrade-in-arms, überbaddie Jo Jae-hyeon 조재현. Choi is thought to be dead but of course isn’t and before long, he emerges from his Buddhist temple hide-out, accompanied by the ever graceful Kim Bo-gyeong 김보경, to spoil the new usurper king’s ceremonial crossing of the Han River. The finale is lavish, both costume-wise and splattering-blood-and-chopped-off-limbs-wise. OK, the plot is unnecessarily long, windy and complicated and the influence of Korean TV drama on the characters and their relationships a bit too big. On the good side, the plot is derived from actual historical circumstances and although much liberty is taken with the historical background (which is not a bad thing), it solidly grounds the movie. And the production values are incredible, the costumes lavish, the martial arts choreography (done by Hong Kong old hands) delicious and the characters engaging in a sort of dramatic and fatalistic way. If all B-movies were made with so much TLC and craftsmanship I’d be a happy bunny. Masterly pulp.

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