PAINTED SKIN: THE RESURRECTION
According to demon lore, it takes hundreds of years for a demon to attain human form. Even then, lacking a human heart, a demon cannot experience the true pains and passions of existence. However, there is a legend that if a pure human heart is freely offered to a demon, it can become a mortal and experience true life.
Xiaowei (Zhou Xun), a millenia-old fox spirit, has been imprisoned for centuries under a frozen lake as punishment for violating the laws of the demon world. Her sheer will to survive attracted the bird spirit Que'r (Mini Yang) who broke through the ice and revived her. Xiaowei saw two choices: experience true death or become truly human. She regains her strength - and youth - by consuming the heart of a stranger, transforming herself into a beautiful seductress. Unknown to her, the stranger is the Prince of Tianliang Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Princess Jing (Vicki Zhao), the fourteenth daughter of the Han Dynasty King, has been betrothed to the Tianliang Prince so as to maintain peace in her own kingdom. The offer of marriage, however, is a trick by the Queen (Chen Tingjia) of the Tianlang Kingdom and chief wizard (Kris Phillips) who plot to reincarnate the dead prince in a black magic ceremony employing Jing's beating heart.
Jing was once the most beautiful woman in her kingdom until a bear disfigured her face on a hunt at the age of 15. Since then, she has worn a golden mask across half her face. Her personal guard, General Huo Xin (Chen Kun), chose to leave the palace, ashamed at his failure to protect her. He was transferred to the western frontier. Jing disobeys her father's order to marry, and flees west in search of Huo, her one true love.
A twist of fate brings Princess Jing and Xiaowei together on the journey. Xiaowei immediately realises that Jing's innocent heart is her best chance to transform into a human. But Jing must first be persuaded to offer up her heart of her own free will. Xiaowei pretends to be her attendant and travels with Jing to the White City where General Huo Xin is garrisoned.
After so many years apart, General Huo Xin is overwhelmed with guilt when he encounters Jing again, and refuses to accept her love. At the same time, he is bewitched by Xiaowei's demonic beauty. Xiaowei discloses her true demon self to the Princess and declares, "Every man, without exception, is obsessed by me, including your General Huo Xin."
As Tianliang warriors surround the White City, the two women strike a deal. Since Princess Jing needs Xiaowei's face to secure the General's love, she is willing to exchange her live, beating heart for Xiaowei's perfect skin. Unbeknownst to Jing, to maintain the youth of her newfound beauty, she must herself begin to consume live human hearts...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The story may be fanciful -it is a fantasy after all - but the film is an absolute visual feast, both in its use of settings and in its use of effects. There isn't a single frame that is dull; either decorative with period detail of costumes or sets, or the extraordinary landscapes. Irresistible to the eyes, Painted Skin The Resurrection offers audiences a cinematic trip, combining beautiful women, savage fights and glorious fantasy.
Freed from constraints of accuracy by an imaginary time and place, the film stretches its creative team to come up with innovative results.
As the background briefing notes explain, "The greatest challenge for art designer Hao Yi was the depiction of Tianliang Kingdom which is a fictional realm that has no precedent in either real history or movie history. Tianliang citizens are strong believers in voodoo-like black magic; it is a savage and exotic place that should strike terror into the audience.
Hao introduced design elements from Hun culture in the North, Turkish culture in the West and Tibetan and Indian culture in the South, from different historical periods and different ethnic groups. He has weaved the architecture, fabrics and motifs into a unique, unforgettable cinematic civilization."
The film's VFX team was inspired by legendary Japanese visual artist Amano Yoshitaka, and some of the work is indeed groundbreaking.
Inevitably, the golden half-mask that Princess Jing (Vicki Zhao) wears - to hide ugly scars from a bear attack - are reminiscent of that iconic white mask worn by The Phantom of the Opera: it strikes me this film could well have been an equally dramatic and successful grand musical.
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PAINTED SKIN: THE RESURRECTION (TBA)
(China/Hong Kong, 2012)
CAST: Vicki Zhao, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Feng Shaofeng, Fei Xiang, Tian Lang, Chen Tingyan, Kris Phillips
PRODUCER: Guo-fu Chen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yue-Tai Huang
MUSIC: Shi-Tian Shen-Fang
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hao Yi
OTHER: Koan Hui (Visual Effects Supervisor)
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: China Lion
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 28, 2012