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Review: The Fate of Lee Khan and The End of Love

Celebrated the completion of a pilot I’ve been working on with an Asian cinema double feature:

  • The Fate of Lee Khan: The films of Chinese director King Hu tend to emphasize style and action over a coherent narrative (that’s not necessarily a criticism, merely an observation), but this 1973 kung fu thriller features a surprisingly tight plot—probably because the story is so elegantly simple. It’s a classic wuxia tale of espionage and intrigue, pitting undercover rebels against corrupt court officials; deception, misdirection, and betrayal abound, and absolutely anyone—from a bewitchingly beautiful waitress to a lecherous old alcoholic to an unassuming bookkeeper—could secretly be a spy for either faction. At the center of the drama sits the eponymous Mongol warlord, a villain whose affable, laid-back attitude only serves to make his cruel deeds all the more terrifying; the scenes in which he casually casually sips tea or reads a book as his henchmen brutally interrogate our heroes rank among the most suspenseful of Hu’s illustrious career.

  • The End of Love: I’m not terribly familiar with the “Japanese New Wave”, so I decided to use Japan Society’s latest retrospective series, which seeks to spotlight some of the movement’s more obscure titles, as an opportunity to remedy that situation. Tonight’s offering was The End of Love, a haunting meditation on postwar disillusionment. The young, bitter protagonists are defined by directionless rage, violently lashing out at whatever target happens to be available—at the Americans that conquered them, at the imperialist attitudes that led to their country’s downfall, at the hypocrisy of their own peers—and ultimately transforming into hollow, amoral, nihilistic shells of human beings. It’s a scathing rebuttal of the archetypal “rebel without a cause”—for if youthful rebellion lacks a concrete purpose beyond mindless anarchy, then it’s doomed to fail from the start.

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