Essential Big Screen 2023
New Restoration

Like a silent filmmaker, Hu had a pictorial intelligence that conceived scenes shot by shot, without any pointless flourishes … The film is designed for the big screen, where details can blossom in distant crannies.”

David Bordwell

While critics have pointed to King Hu’s three-hour epics as his finest achievements, Raining in the Mountain, a compact, shape-shifting film of intricate spatial geometry and delicious irony, deserves to join their ranks. The set-up suggests a heist film: three travellers with ulterior motives visit a Buddhist temple and quickly scope out the sutra hidden within. (Ang Lee borrowed this premise for the opening salvo of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.) Hu’s concerns include not just the vaulting majesty of his action editing (which resembles the work of no other genius, except perhaps Méliès), but also philosophical questions of value—of the sacred scroll, either priceless or worthless outside the mountaintop’s enclosed space, as well as the ideals shared (or not) by the temple’s outgoing abbott and his potential successors. Whether cutting together an astounding sequence organized around the ringing of the temple’s bell or cutting human ambition down to size, Hu’s observational eye remains unmatched.

In Mandarin with English subtitles

“[An] oft-neglected masterpiece … Meticulously edited by the director himself, who also wrote the screenplay and supplied the art direction, Raining in the Mountain is a simple story masterfully told.”

Edmund Lee, Time Out

A film that changed my life … King Hu needs to be recognized as one of the most truly original filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s, alongside figures such as Rocha, Tarkovsky, and Godard, all of whose artistry has less to do with storytelling’ and more with other aspects of film form or style.”

Peter Rist, Offscreen

Upcoming in this Series

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