The Wooden Man's Bride

(WU KUI) 1994

Director: Jianxin Huang

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

This visually gorgeous Taiwan film set in a desert community of the 1920s could've been set a thousand years ago, as there are no modern references in this isolated world where two-hump camels, oxen, horses & donkeys are the engines of all technology.

A young woman (Lang Wang) is fetched from her home to be taken in a rather humble wedding procession to a village some distance away in order to be wed. She is kidnapped by bandits along the way, & a young man in the procession saves her, but then has to deliver her to her future husband despite already falling for each other.

Unfortunately, her future husband has accidentally blown himself to smithereens while fetching gunpowder, & the wealthy widow (Yumei Wang) forces the bride to marry a carved wooden icon of the dead young master. The ghostly wedding is visually chilling.

The impoverished young man (Chang Shih) whom she actually loves meanwhile singlehandedly runs the widow's tofu factory. How long can their paths keep crossing before they succumb to temptation?

For a single night of passion, their lives could be forfeit, & one does rather expect a Romeo & Juliet tragedy by the end. Instead, the story develops with a combination of grimness & heroism that is certainly very far away from happy or sentimental, but not as bad as it could've been.

These characters are convincingly, beautifully played. Every performance, no matter how small or large, is the very epitome of conviction. Terrible things occur, but no one is totally wrong or totally right in this tradition-bound world.

The setting is both stark & stunningly beautiful. After watching a dozen films in a row ranging from critically acclaimed but in reality only moderately good, to simply awful, it was grand to be reminded by The Wooden Man's Bride that cinema can indeed be great art.
copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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