Swordswoman of Huangjiang was ...interesting. The write-up on the festival site calls it 'vastly entertaining' and 'effervescent' - I'm not certain I can entirely get behind this description. Not that I didn't enjoy myself (after I'd gotten most of the gum I sat in off my pants - humans are foul, filthy creatures). The Aono Jikken Ensemble provided magnificent music, for one thing, that was worth the ticket price alone. But the film, you say, what about the film?
Well, it was introduced as the first of a series of 12 serial episodes - a format quite common to the time (1930) - the subsequent installments having been lost. Since I don't read Chinese I can't argue, but things seemed a little more choppy and confusing than that would account for - I tend to agree with a fellow viewer who thought it was probably several bits of episodes spliced together. The quality of the "print" was quite poor, actually. It had been transferred from the original film stock to video tape (the original being quite fragile by now), but the aspect ratios were off because of the difference between silent and sound pictures and the part of the actual film the image occupies. So the English subtitles were mostly too far to the left to be entirely readable, if they weren't simply pushed off the bottom of the screen by the Chinese subtitles - since these were more properly intertitles I should say. Our titular heroine doesn't even appear for the first 20 minutes or so, as we follow some sort of raiding party? army? group of hunters? on their sortie over a mountain to do ...something. There were also technical difficulties when tape 1 finished and began to rewind itself; then tape 2 had a fair chunk of overlap footage, which made me wonder briefly if this were some strange precursor to Groundhog Day.
Bitching aside, the fight scenes were quite interesting and many of the standard tropes were clearly in evidence. The would-be apprentice who starts trouble to be noticed by the master, the attack in the night foiled by the alarm raised by the faithful servant, the hero who can't stay put due to unnamed obligations elsewhere... It ended on a definite cliffhanger - our heroine trapped in a cage over a grate from which ominous looking fumes begin to issue, our hero overwhelmed and outnumbered by the foe, then wham: colorbars, and that's the end of that.
Devdas: a spectacular in all senses of the word. Very dramatic - almost over-dramatic, but deliberately so. It comes across as over-the-top but well in hand, if that makes any sense. More intense than a lot of melodrama in that the ending isn't particularly happy... Visually it's jaw-droppingly amazing - the costumes and settings are beautiful and vibrant, and the dancing was expert and intricate. 'Moulin Rouge with angst' may be the best description I can come up with... I'm tempted to buy the DVD.