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Painted Skin: The Resurrection - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hua Pi 2

China 2012

Fantasy, Romance, Drama


Vickie Zhao Wei
Zhou Xun
Aloys Chen Kun
Mini Yang
William Feng
Kris Phillips
Lin Junxiao
Chen Tingjia
Qin Junjue

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Painted Skin: The Resurrection

aka Painted Skin 2

Story: Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) is a fox demon, who defied prevailing rules when she fell in love with a mortal and saved his life by using her magic. For that, she was imprisoned into an ice lake for 500 years. Now she is free again and searches for a way to become human. To keep on living Xiaowei has to feed on human hearts, but legend has it that she can only become human if a mortal gives her his heart according to his own free will. One day she meets a mysterious stranger and sets a trap for him so that it looks as if he had saved her life. However, the stranger is immune to the fox demon's bewitchment because it actually is princess Jing (Vicki Zhao Wei) in disguise. Nevertheless, Xiaowei stays with the princess and finds out that she has been searching for one of her bodyguards, General Huo (Aloys Chen Kun), for eight years and that she has now found him. After the princess was disfigured by a bear attack, her bodyguard simply vanished and now still does not seem to have any interest in her. Xiaowei sees a chance to conspire in order to get what she needs.

Review: "Painted Skin" was unexpectedly successful although, or maybe even because, it presented a return to the Chinese fantasy-romance fairy-tale genre of the 90s. The movie's sequel stays true to this tradition but also manages to score points with its contemporary look. In fact, especially the visual creativity is intoxicating and those with a 3D-television are in for a treat, as even in 2D you can see that the moviemakers really went out of their way to impress you. But all this would not mean anything if it weren't for the decent story and the two great actresses, who manage to carry the movie so well. Cause herein lies the secret of the success of "Painted Skin: The Resurrection", the women-centered cast.

As a matter of fact, this fantasy flick was so successful that it broke all box office records in China. Director Wuershan already showed us with his unconventional but yet well-done debut movie "The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman" that he is a master of his craft when it comes to visuals and this time he does not hesitate to let his imagination run wild. The computer effects are mostly used successfully, there are only a few scenes where technically they could not live up to the director's ideas, but even in those cases, they still have their appeal. But be that as it may, the effects and the tragedy of a demon who longs to become human as well as the embedded love story, give the story so much epic character that you are willing to overlook some few mistakes here and there.

To emphasize the movie's visual strength one could mention that no other than Yoshitaka Amano was responsible for the concept design. Amano will mostly be known for his work for the "Final Fantasy" video game series. Wonderful costumes and sets are also highlights of the movie. At some point even the occasionally artificial looking computer effects won't bother you anymore, simply because "Painted Skin 2" establishes its very own fantasy world, in which things are allowed to look the way they do, or in which a wild barbarian tribe from the North admires wolf gods and is led by a sorcerer who's being played by pop icon Kris Phillip in an awesomely bizarre and corny way. Sometimes the director overreaches but his heartwarming story nevertheless manages to keep this fantasy movie grounded.

The first half an hour might give you the impression that you have a similarly shallow art of work in front of you as "The Sorcerer and the White Snake", which mostly strives to entertain you with a blinding display of special effects, but after the obvious 3D-effects in slow-motion have faded into the background and only resurface at suiting moments, you will be taught otherwise. This is mainly due to Vickie Zhao ("The Longest Night in Shanghai", "Mulan") and Zhou Xun ("Perhaps Love", "The Banquet"), who bring an incredible profoundness to their roles. Especially Zhao now seems to have enough acting experience to actually be on a par with Zhou Xun and even outshines her in some scenes. It is not until the end of the movie that Aloys Chen is allowed to get more out of his one-dimensional role, though. Up until that point, the relationship between Zhou Xun and Vickie Zhao is the driving force in the movie.

Actually, the relationship between the two women clearly has a homoerotic touch to it. To some extent there are even some surprising erotic images, for instance when both women are taking a bath, temporarily changing bodies. The strongest scenes in "Painted Skin 2" are those in which the two are allowed to act without any diverting special effects and that is what gives the tragic story its true color. This time the sequel even works without any noteworthy action scenes and focuses more on its plot. Of course one could criticize that the fox demon doesn't recognize the two individuals in her new love triangle, who look exactly the same as those from 500 years ago, or that the movie is rather long with its 131 minutes running time, or that the visual aspect is put too much into the foreground, but after all this Chinese fairy-tale has all it needs to enchant an audience which is willing to be drawn into such a fantasy world.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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