Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Film: The Sorcerer and the White Snake

Here's a change for SurLaLune, a new film based on a Chinese folktale, Legend of the White Snake, that is making the press rounds now. And judging from these trailers it is visually stunning. Makes me want to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again.

From Action stars put modern twist on classic fairy tale:

Veteran action star Jet Li and action director Tony Ching haven't forgotten their adult audiences, even though their latest movie is the children's fairy tale "The Sorcerer and the White Snake."

The movie, based on a Chinese fairy tale much like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, made its world premiere out of competition Friday at the Venice Film Festival.

Cast members said they recalled first hearing the classic tale from their grandmothers.

But Ching says he sought to put a modern twist on the fable by mixing action with special effects. He says "the idea was to blend Chinese tradition, which is martial arts, with Western technology."

There's more about the tale on Wikipedia, with more links to learn more. Here's an excerpt:

The Legend of the White Snake is a Chinese legend, which existed as oral traditions before any written compilation. It has since become a major subject of several Chinese opera, films and television series.

The earliest attempt to fictionalize the story appears to be The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda (白娘子永鎮雷峰塔) in Feng Menglong's Jingshi Tongyan (警世通言), which was written during the Ming Dynasty.

At its most basic, the story tells of a young scholar who falls in love with a beautiful woman, unaware that she is a thousand year old white snake that has taken on human form. A monk intervenes in order to maintain nature's law and casts the white snake into a deep well at Leifeng Pagoda.

Over the centuries the story has evolved from horror story to romance with the scholar and the white snake-woman genuinely in love with one another, but such a relationship is forbidden by nature's law. There have also been variations on the telling of the story : like the thousand year old white snake have met the boy before and the story continues as reincarnation; or the white snake's offspring being a reincarnation of Wenchang Wang.

An additional character is a hundred year old green snake (or in some cases a carp) that has also transformed into a woman, and serves as the white snake-woman's soul sister and confidante.


  1. I love this re-imagining. I had a silly little animated version of this story that kept sidetracking to show a pig gang leader...it was weird.

  2. I think this is the same tale that's the basis of Tôei's Hakujaden, the colour animated feature made in Asia (and the first really feature- rather than mid-length by today's standards anime). Could that have been the animated version mentioned? Although this one (being non-Chinese and therefore feeling a need to over-emphasise the Chineseness of the setting) apparently involves pandas much. I've also seen a clip from a '60s or '70s Japanese tokukatsu film, which I'd like to see rather than anything computer-aided…