I don’t assume I’d heard the title Ouyang Feng earlier than I watched Wong Kar Wai’s “Ashes of Time” (東邪西毒), a 1992 film based mostly on Jin Yong’s landmark wuxia sequence (what could also be loosely understood as Chinese language martial arts novels) “The Legend of the Condor Heroes” (射雕英雄傳).
The director Wong Kar Wai (WKW) was notoriously working with no actual script, the shortage of which induced three separate actors to be satisfied they had been solid as Ouyang Feng. The film took so lengthy to complete that every one their cash ran out. One of many producers, Andrew Lau, was compelled to speed-make one other film to rescue the endeavor.
That speed-made film, based mostly on the identical guide and recycling the identical solid, turned out to be top-of-the-line Hong Kong comedies of all time. And it was Lau’s “The Eagle-Taking pictures Heroes” (東成西就), not “Ashes,” that drove me to learn the unique books.
It’s troublesome to debate “The Legend of the Condor Heroes,” the wuxia custom, or the 2 motion pictures’ relationship with it in depth, and anyway I don’t but really feel geared up to take action. A subject I doubtlessly might, and maybe one which I most urgently hope to deal with, is the character Ouyang Feng.
Within the books, he’s one of many world’s best martial arts masters, nicknamed “Western Venom” (西毒) for his minions of toxic snakes and equally venomous ambitions. Siding with the unhealthy guys and always interfering with the protagonists’ heroic journey, Ouyang Feng’s villainy turns into more and more bigger than life because the narrative progresses.
Granted, the novel’s character-building comes throughout as melodramatic as a complete, partially resulting from its theatrical influences and partially resulting from its common readership. However for me, there was a degree wherein Ouyang Feng turned so absurd to me that I started to see him in a brand new, surprisingly appreciative gentle. By the top of the novels, he was my favourite character.
Watching “Ashes of Time” for the primary time utterly confused me, and on the time I blamed it on my lack of awareness in regards to the authentic books. However returning to this film after studying the books didn’t fairly redeem it for me. As a WKW fan typically, I struggled to understand the fragmentation, romantic brooding and ambiguity that bought pushed to an excessive in “Ashes.”
What I turned in a position to admire, however, was the choice to make Ouyang Feng the primary character. The books centered on the rising up story of a younger man, Guo Jing, and the 4 nice martial arts masters, all of their outdated age, serve primarily as backdrops and sidekicks to Guo’s adventures.
Guo Jing is a relatable character and much from joyless to observe round, however for me, the 4 masters are undeniably essentially the most fascinating a part of the story. Amid so many TV diversifications that faithfully observe the unique work, to middle a movie adaptation on the Masters of their youth is daring, refreshing and truthfully what I’m in search of as a fan of the story.
Wong Kar Wai’s Ouyang Feng is performed by the infinitely charismatic Leslie Cheung, who assumes the function of a form of ronin-sleuth-assassin. Heartbroken as a result of his lover (Maggie Cheung) determined to marry his brother, he leaves his dwelling within the desolate White Camel Mountains and settles in an equally desolate desert.
He’s worn and delicate like most WKW characters, additionally stingy and morally ambiguous, traits watered down from Jin Yong’s characterization. When he takes in a younger wanderer Hong Qi (Jacky Cheung) — who was to develop into the chief of the “Beggar Clan” and one of many different nice masters — a way of ethical adversity is most strongly iterated.
There was a woman searching for revenge for her lifeless brother, and Ouyang Feng had refused to assist her as a result of she had no cash. Hong Qi took on the job, bought a finger sliced off, and took for cost solely a single hen egg. When Ouyang Feng asks him if the egg was well worth the finger, Hong says, “No, however that’s our distinction.”
Within the books, Ouyang Feng had backstabbed Hong Qi at a second of Hong’s kindness; they’re clearly characterised because the prototypes of fine and evil. It’s important, although, that in “Ashes” Ouyang Feng serves as Hong Qi’s first mentor. Ouyang Feng’s function of a resting place, a begrudging however principally disillusioned island within the storm, is a brand new addition on WKW’s half.
In a way, this film is displaying Ouyang Feng earlier than he turned caught on the stereotypically villainous obsession with changing into essentially the most highly effective martial arts grasp on the earth. As a prequel, “Ashes” does probably not recreate this character from the bottom up. It’s doable, and enjoyable, to image this cynical, philosophizing younger man bury his heartbreak, return to his dwelling and develop into what he was first illustrated to be.
That stated, this hypothetical character arc turns into a lot smoother because of the nearly unintended existence of “The Eagle Taking pictures Heroes.” The truth that this film was actually spawned by WKW’s author’s block when making “Ashes” appears to me like an indication. Leslie Cheung’s Ouyang Feng isn’t fairly full with out the model portrayed by Tony Leung in “The Eagle Taking pictures Heroes.”
To start with, I personally took an extremely very long time to appreciate that Tong Leung additionally did comedies. His longing and melancholy gaze captured by WKW was burnt into my thoughts, and I assume additionally a lot of the favored consciousness. His efficiency as Ouyang Feng in “The Eagle Taking pictures Heroes,” in contrast, hits the peak of hilarity. This exaggerated efficiency model stems not solely from the film’s style, “mou lei tau (無厘頭),” a sort of slapstick humor that emerged in late twentieth century Hong Kong cinema.
As a result of in Jin Yong’s books, Ouyang Feng actually goes mad. Making an attempt to grasp what’s allegedly the very best martial arts scripture, he’s tricked by the heroine into adopting an excessive and lopsided methodology, which causes him to lose his thoughts. The ironies in addition to humor in Ouyang Feng’s frantic villainy is fantastically showcased in a basic dueling scene between Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung (as soon as once more taking part in Hong Qi) in “Heroes.”
Hong Qi, caught in a heartbreak, claims that he doesn’t wish to dwell, and asks Ouyang Feng to complete him: “It’s value it to die by the hands of such an incredible grasp.” The fact is, regardless of how arduous Hong Qi tries to chorus from combating again, his reflexes get the higher of him, and ultimately Ouyang Feng is overwhelmed to a pulp and begging for mercy.
This sequence is strongly harking back to the Ouyang Feng late within the books. He follows the hero and heroine round, a longtime and revered grasp doggedly on the tail of two youngsters. And to his shame, his efforts are undermined by the heroine’s wit and the hero’s (semi-accidentally acquired) martial arts excellence.
Later within the film, paralleling his descent into insanity within the novel, Tony Leung’s Ouyang Feng is defeated by the nice guys, turns into satisfied that he’s a duck (contributing a short interlude of “Previous MacDonald Had A Farm”), and runs off to dwell with a band of cave animals (a gorilla, a dinosaur and aptly — a condor).
I’d have been completely satisfied sufficient if it had been solely the symmetry of those two motion pictures that sparked mysterious forces in alignment with the novelistic Ouyang Feng, and resulted in an illustration of one in every of my favourite villains. However there’s another factor. In Jin Yong’s sequel to “The Legend of The Condor Heroes,” Ouyang Feng emerges once more, nonetheless mad from the top of the final novel. However this time, his insanity takes on a extra philosophical spin. He had forgotten even his personal title, and had spent all of the years off-stage wandering round, asking: “Who am I?”
Now, I as soon as once more see Leslie Cheung’s iteration. In “Ashes of Time,” the younger Ouyang Feng finally takes a potion that helps him overlook about his misplaced lover, earlier than returning dwelling and rising to cruel prominence. Nearing the top of his life, he has as soon as once more forgotten.
To deliver the story to an much more excellent full circle, Ouyang Feng’s life ends in one more duel along with his outdated good friend and enemy, Hong Qi. When their youthful selves half in “Ashes,” Wong Kar Wai superimposes a caption as Hong is disappearing into the gap, explaining that years later, they’d die collectively in a duel. When this prophecy is fulfilled, Ouyang Feng regains a short second of psychological readability. His story is concluded by an embrace along with his opponent, in addition to a reconciliation with the fears, ambitions and maybe love, that had plagued his life.