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  Publicity Stills of
"Painted Skin"
(Courtesy of GV)

Director: Gordon Chan
Cast: Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Qi Yuwu, Betty Sun, David Leong
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: GV, Mediacorp Raintree Pictures & Scorpio East Pictures
Rating: PG (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Official Website: http://huapi.ent.sina.com.cn/

Opening Day: 26 September 2008

"Painted Skin" Singapore Press Conference


The story is adapted from the ancient Chinese classic ‘Ghost Stories’ (or Liao Chai).

During the Chin and Han era, Commander Wang Sheng (by Chen Kun) leads his troops in a raid on bandits in the desert, in the process he rescues a beautiful woman and brings her back with them. However he has no idea that this woman, Xiao Wei (by Zhou Xun), is in fact a fox spirit in human form. Xiao Wei needs a regular supply of human hearts to maintain her human form, and the task falls on her helper Xiao Yi (by Qi Yu Wu) – a chameleon who’s also taken on human form and has the special ability to camouflage into the environment he is in. To prove his love and devotion to Xiao Wei, he carries out a spate of murders in order to provide her with human hearts; this terrorizes the whole city.

Meanwhile, Xiao Wei has fallen in love with Wang Sheng, after being impressed with his gallant attempt in rescuing her. She keeps trying to seduce Wang in an effort to steal him from his wife Pei Rong (by Vicki Zhao).

Pei Rong finds out about Xiao Wei’s feeling for her husband; she also discovers that Xiao Wei is not human, so she secretly approaches martial expert Pang Yong (by Donnie Yen) and demon Catcher Xia Bing (by Sun Li) for help...

Subsequently a drama unfolds that delves into intricate emotions and relationships between man and demon, love and passion, loyalty and temptation, treachery and integrity, ending in a finale with surprising twist.

Movie Review:

Having braved countless supernatural movies, this reviewer can proudly say that there hasn’t been one that has managed to creep him out completely. However, since young, he has been intrigued by the famous Chinese story series “The Strange Tales of Liao Zhai”, a collection of supernatural folk takes written during the early Qing Dynasty. The colorful cast of characters includes vixen spirits, ghosts, humans and exorcists. And as eerily haunting some of these tales are, they often have a social message about human character. Naturally, these stories spawned numerous movie and television drama adaptations, and the latest one is directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Gordon Chan (Okinawa Rendezvous, A1 Headline).

The story tells of a vixen spirit who gets saved by a general, and he brings her home, only to create trouble and unrest amongst the townsfolk. The married man has no idea that the spirit eats the hearts of her human beings to maintain her good looks and her beautifully painted skin. Little does he know that the spirit is also falling in love with him, and chaos will ensue as a result of this human spirit love hate relationship.

If this is the first time you are hearing about this storyline, we don’t blame you if you find it creepy. The mental image of a spirit shedding and painting its human skin to beautify it is disturbingly spine chilling (cue the censorship board’s consumer advice of “Some Disturbing Scenes”). But the filmmakers know better than to make this marketing machine a horror fest. With the godsend cast of Mainland Chinese A-listers like Zhou Xun (Ming Ming, Perhaps Love), Vicki Zhao (Red Cliff, The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Chen Kun (Playboy Cops, The Knot) and our very own Qi Yu Wu (The Leap Years, The Home Song Stories), you can be sure it’s going to be a box office hit. And with action super star Donnie Yen (An Empress and the Warriors, Flash Point) headlining this movie, you can be sure ticket sales will be going up, up, up.

But this is where viewers may be mistaken that this 95 minute picture is an action movie full of chop and schlock. Sure, there are some niftily choreographed action sequences that see the characters flying from rooftop to rooftop, but there aren’t any grit and blood which you’d normally expect from a movie starring Donnie Yen. In fact, this drama is rather dreary to watch in its first half, where the story sets itself up for the spirit to be introduced into the family.

The highlight here definitely isn’t Qi’s portrayal as a chameleon spirit, whose silver hair gel is more amusing than anything. It also isn’t Yen’s comic relief role as a martial arts expert, whose performance comes off as rather lightweight. Some may pay attention to Chen Kun’s brooding and gloomy performance as the emotionally undecided general, or Sun Li’s (Fearless) cute and prancing demon catcher, but these aren’t what really shine in this collaboration between Singapore, China and Hong Kong.

What audiences would be most impressed with are Zhou and Zhao’s impressive performance as the vixen spirit and the devoted wife respectively. With Zhou’s deep voice and illuminatingly stunning features, she plays her role perfectly. And who would have thought that Zhao (of the “Xiao Yan Zi” from My Fair Princess fame) could play the role of a loyal and dedicated spouse with such quiet steadfastness? In the hands of a less capable actress, this character would have come off infuriatingly irritating instead.

Watch out for the scene where the two women confront each other – the determination and relentless of the two characters are inaudibly explosive. This is what true drama is all about – characters which you empathize with, whether human or spirit.

Movie Rating:

(Watch this for the deeply moving drama, not the scuffling action sequences)

Review by John Li


. An Empress And The Warriors (2008)

. The Warlords (2007)

. The Curse of the Golden Flowers (2006)

. A Battle of Wits (2006)

. A Chinese Tall Story (2005)

. Seven Swords (2005)

. House of Flying Daggers (2004)

. The Twins Effect 2 (2004)

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