An ancient fox spirit embarks on a diabolical quest to become human after escaping an icy prison, and becomes bound to a disfigured princess who seeks the love of a noble guard as her kingdom crumbles in this lavish supernatural epic. Confined to a frozen cell for centuries, malevolent fox spirit Xiaowei (Xun Zhou) regains her freedom and seeks to preserve her beauty by seducing men and consuming their hearts. Should a man offer her his heart willingly, Xiaowei will become mortal, breaking free of the underworld and experiencing living among the living. Meanwhile, as a dark cloud falls over her kingdom, Princess Jing (Wei Zhao) flees, hiding her deep facial scars under a mask of pure gold while seeking the love of her former protector, who remains haunted by his failure to save her years prior. When destiny brings Xiaowei and Princess Jing together, the battle for the princess’ heart begins. “Painted Skin: The Resurrection” is beautiful to look at and at times the bright contrast and use of colours in the scenery and backdrop is breathtaking to endure.
And the most important thing that contribute to the success of the movie: the actors. Zhou Xun (the demon) is simply flawless. Whether it’s her look, or her acting, it’s simply perfect. Her role is definitely the highlight of the movie. Whatever she does, no one can hate her. I can feel the pain in her eyes, the sadness hiding behind the mask of a evil demon. That is what I call a true actress. But that doesn’t mean Zhao Wei (the princess) did a bad job. She played her role very well. There’s no room for complaint. The reason why I love Zhou Xun so much is probably because her character of the demon in the movie is kind of more complicated and interesting to me.
But in the case of director Wuershan’s Painted Skin: The Resurrection, its status as the biggest box office sensation in China to date aside, it’s a movie with the weight of a lot more in question, than what may have been lost in translation along the way. You see, it’s a supernatural fantasy film about passion, beauty and transformation. Of course there is more attention to aesthetics then actual story but that is the common route in tackling films like these. Painted Skin: The Resurrection probably would have benefited from having been judiciously trimmed in its middle section. The film simply spends too much time rehashing the frankly seductive interplay between Xiaowei and Jing. That is, how to combine the exquisitely crafted, leisurely imagery of poetically paced slow motion arthouse elegance with fast forward blunt action in a film.
Director Wuershan, hot off the heels of his clever action comedy The Butcher, The Chef, and the Swordsman, successfully makes the transition to the big-budget big leagues with his third feature. It’s a wonderfully exciting finale, but it would have been even better had we gotten there a little sooner. Tied loosely to Chinese mythology but freed from any particular historical period or real location, The Resurrection is an adventure riding boldly off in all directions. In the end, it’s a film I don’t like, but love, but cringe, but can’t look away all at the same time. Featuring several dangerous women, a few men who are a bit slow on the uptake, and a whole lot of frustrated ardor, Resurrection is a far better date movie than most Wuxia epics.