The Butterfly Murders
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Lau Siu-Ming, Michelle Chan, Wong Su, Cheung Kwok, Mai Suet, Norman Chu
This is Tsui Hark's debut feature; I was pretty hyped to see the first in what would become one of the strongest outputs of films (regardless of language or geographic area) in its' history. Upon my first viewing, though, I felt like I had hit a roadblock. Most of Tsui's movies are known for having dense stories, and this one is certainly no exception. Even though the base plot is fairly simple -- various groups (clans) have been drawn to a castle where they have met their untimely deaths, and the latest group must try to unravel the mystery before they become victims themselves -- there are more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel, and since of the events and characters are based (albeit loosely) on actual Chinese history, Western viewers could find matters a bit confusing to say the least. (I was relieved upon reading other reviews, some written by native Cantonese speakers, that also had trouble following the plot.)
To its' credit, the plot does become more cohesive towards the end, perhaps not coincidentally as the number of characters gets reduced. However, what is left -- despite all the posturing and (not so well) hidden symbolism during most of the movie -- becomes yet another revenge picture. Still, I enjoyed The Butterfly Murders; it seems to be all about mood and it creates a dark sense of despair that wraps around the viewer like a blanket. The action scenes are also done well -- of course, they're not on the level of Tsui's later films like Once Upon a Time in China, but there's still a good deal of high-flying antics and inventive weapons to go around.
A review of the VCD for this movie can be found here
Back to Movie Review index