Bury Me High (1991: Tsui Siu-ming: Hong Kong)

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Masterofoneinchpunch
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Bury Me High (1991: Tsui Siu-ming: Hong Kong)

Unread postby Masterofoneinchpunch » 23 Jun 2016, 18:34

In the small country of Carrinan (an obvious allegory to Vietnam; though filmed in Mainland China), a rich traveler Nguen (Paul Chun: also a bad guy in All for the Winner) is looking for a burial spot, according to the rules of feng shui’s sepulchral veneration (aka good burial spot of family that will increase fortunes of descendants.) Helped led by Wei Tien-hsien (Corey Yuen, another All for the Winner connection) who warms him of the catastrophe of his plans (one might wonder if Nguen knew so much why he would use Wei.) However, its usefulness is only good for 24 years and will expire like the pineapple cans in Chungking Express which itself is an allegory to the upcoming handover. Wei creates a map so a future individual may destroy the burial ground (though it seems that it would run out of potency if you just let the time pass). He also ends up burying his friend into a wealth spot and himself into a wisdom spot (though apparently both with timelines as well). Argh my head is hurting from this logic much like the mostly inoperable tumor of Wisely which will possibly make him insane one day, most likely caused by the dad or reading the screenplay.

Wisely* (Chin Ka-lok: Operation Scorpio) is an orphan who was adopted out to the United States. Upon happenstance he meets Anna Wong (Moon Lee: Mr. Vampire) the sister of his Dad’s friend who also happens to be in United States. She believes that the change in fortune between her family and him happen to be because of something changed in the burial grounds or the fact that the 24 year period is about up and the graves have to be disinterred. This does seem to be a rather large impediment to the positiveness of burying someone, especially in a hard-to-get to country. It is not just a coincidence that Wisely is probably dying, Anna Wong’s fortune and company is dwindling, and a psychopath General Nguen like any good martial art villain is a wearing a cape (guess who he is related to; played by Yuen Wah in a role analogous to Eastern Condors) is taking over Carrinan all at the same time. But they need help and they find a somewhat rotund but adroit UCLA professor in the director Tsui Siu-ming (The Buddhist Fist).

So when they arrive in Carrinan, with mountains that remind me of Monument Valley, they are in the middle of a civil war led by General Nguen, his sister (Sibelle Hu: The Inspector Wears Skirts) and militant brother (Cho Wing; also one of the action directors). The plot does get a bit murky, sometimes overly sappy, but I feel that it becomes rather obvious what will happen as the film commences and who live/die. It just does not hold up especially watching it more than once. Some or most viewers I expect are probably just looking forward to the action scenes.

Unfortunately Chin Ka-lok puts in a milquetoast performance and undermines the role by his ineffectual presence and acting. Luckily he can fight though. So can Tsui Siu-ming, even with a few extra pounds. While he does comment on his weight in the film, he is no Sammo Hung in size. Now Yuen Wah may be playing a one-dimensional character as the military leader/dictator, but he acts it with relish.

The hacker scenes were as unrealistic as Hackers (1995) or most films involving computers. Though it is cool to see an earlier 8-bit version of Google Street View. The early police scenes were no better. Cops, usually, do not fire upon an unarmed fleeing person especially for a non-violent offense. Also their quick arrival was pretty hilarious, especially for just a hacker. Also why turn in a person if you are just going to rescue him? Most of the gun battles were pretty unrealistic and sometimes hilariously inept with some obvious influence (though without the gravitas) from Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. Another item that is either fun or annoying is the amount of product placements you can find in 1990s Hong Kong cinema. Coca-Cola, Pepsi (the drink of rebels) and McDonalds are three of the usual suspects and all present here with a multitude of others.

But there are some good aspects to this film. The cinematography by Peter Pau (The Bride with White Hair and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who was nominated for a Hong Kong Film Award is superb with helicopter shots, crane shots, nice composition and use of color. It is the most consistently superlative aspect of the movie. It is the only consistently superlative aspect of the movie. Luckily, there are also some good fight sequences and stunts in here which is the primary interest of many people reading this. The first major fight in the discotheque is decent with a couple of nice stunts and combination fighting especially with an uncut sequence with Chin Kar-lok doing a breakdance sweep, to a sweep to a jumping spinning kick. He also (I think it is him and not his stunt double) does a nice painful jump to the floor earlier on. Chin also has a nice little fight with Cho Wing which was too short. The last action scenes are good and crosscut between weaponry, some nice stunts, and hand-to-hand fighting. Finally you get to see Yuen Wah in action who is awesome with combinations, especially against Chin Kar-lok and Moon Lee. It is nice to see so many good side-kicks (the move not an actor like Rob Schneider.) Then there is the most unlikely use of brain surgery you will ever see outside of The Man With Two Brains.

I really cannot recommend this except for the fighting (especially the last fight sequence) and cinematography. But I do not think you have to stay away from it either. I noticed most reviews I read were pretty much the same on this film. It is nice to see a Hong Kong film to try a big budget type of action adventure. It was not a box office hit though making under 11 Million HK Dollars.

This was watched on the Universe R0/NTSC DVD. It has a trailer for the film and one for The Miracle Fighters. It has Cantonese and Mandarin dubs with Traditional, Simplified, English and Bahasa subtitles. I wish some of the written Chinese was translated. I always dislike when English is spoken and yet the subtitles translate it incorrectly. The print is so-so at best with some damage and a washed out look which hurts the fine cinematography. The night scenes sometimes are close to. The DVD is letterboxed and not anamorphic. There is a Legendary Collection R0/NTSC release of this which I would have to believe given their past releases is better looking. However, given their past releases I have the subtitles might even be worse.

* The Wisely character can be seen in other films like The Seventh Curse, The Legend of Wisely and The Cat all played by different actors. It is based off of a fictional character by prolific author Ngai Hong (Ni Kuang). Most of his books are not translated in English, but I have seen a few like The Return of the Hermit that were.

Keywords: AK-47, Coca-Cola (drink of hackers), discotheque, dynamite, English spoken, fireworks, flintlock pistol, geomancy, helicopter cinematography, Los Angeles, McDonalds (the food of hackers), Monterey Park, Nescafe (product placement), Nespray (product placement), optical effects, Pepsi (product placement), Sanyo (product placement), tank, WCT skyscraper (this is World Chinese Trust; the history of this is interesting and not just for people in Los Angeles).

Notes/Questions:
Chinese sepulchral geomancy, a subset of feng shui, in dealing with burial sites is a pseudoscience, but it is interesting how this films conflicts with what I have read about it. Normally you are not supposed to bury so high and normally you are not supposed to move after buried. Here is an article from Travel China Guide on this. But there are so many variations like martial arts that it does not matter too much. It also might be because the plot is convoluted that one might think too much of logicality of this if one is inclined.
The burn in hand was taken directly from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Quote: “When modern science can’t prove against its existence, you can’t negate it.” This is a burden of proof logical fallacy. Also known as appeal to ignorance
Any idea where is that staircase in the cliff is (supposed to be in LA)?
Are the white gloves of the two dictators a reference to someone?
Where else has a bad guy in film died from lightning strike?

Sources:
Politics of Landscapes in Singapore: Constructions of 'Nation' (Space, Place and Society) (2003) by Lily Kong and Brenda S. A. Yeoh: Take a look at Chapter 4 “Making Space for the Dead in the Body of the Living “Nation”.
The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997 (2000) by John Charles: he gives this a 6/10. States that this is inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, though I think that only a few scenes are. His opinion of the film is the general one: good choreography, some good fight scenes, and implausible plot.
At the Hong Kong Movies (1999) by Paul Fonoroff: he also does not like this movie much besides the cinematography. I got the author of the Wisely series from him.
Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head (1996) Stefan Hammond & Mike Wilkins: small mini-review plus an assortment of mangled subtitles throughout the book (definitely not the translation that I saw.)
Review from The Gweilos Guide

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Markgway
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Re: Bury Me High (1991: Tsui Siu-ming: Hong Kong)

Unread postby Markgway » 24 Jun 2016, 13:51

I obviously liked this more than you did... a first, perhaps? ;)
Bradavon: As probably the only guy on this forum who has snogged another man (3 times in fact), it didn't do a lot for me but I didn't hate it either. Who doesn't like a snog?

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Masterofoneinchpunch
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Re: Bury Me High (1991: Tsui Siu-ming: Hong Kong)

Unread postby Masterofoneinchpunch » 24 Jun 2016, 17:03

Markgway wrote:I obviously liked this more than you did... a first, perhaps? ;)


Yes :D, though my rating/review was similar to both John Charles and Paul Fonoroff. I did see this several times over the past month though :D, looking for tidbits I missed. Still love the ending though. That DVD did not help (though one can still tell the cinematography is well done.)

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Markgway
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Re: Bury Me High (1991: Tsui Siu-ming: Hong Kong)

Unread postby Markgway » 24 Jun 2016, 17:38

I'd love to see a remastered version with the original stereo soundtrack.

Bugger all chance of that happening, of course...

The Joy Sales DVD, probably the best we're likely to get, is OOP, alas.
Bradavon: As probably the only guy on this forum who has snogged another man (3 times in fact), it didn't do a lot for me but I didn't hate it either. Who doesn't like a snog?

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