The Best Old Movies On a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 15-21

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04/15/2015 6:29 AM |

duel to the death

Duel to the Death (1983)
Directed by Ching Siu-Tang
Sure, there are plenty of purely visceral pleasures in Duel to the Death: ninjas barreling through the ground like hedgehogs, a pitch-black lair with kung-fu masters suspended in air as if caught in an oversize web, a forest battle that climaxes with an exploding decapitated head stuck on a tree. But underneath the dizzying visual invention of this genre classic is a subversive parable exposing the perils of pledging unthinking allegiance to both tradition and country. As Ching Wan (Norman Chu) and Hashimoto (Damian Lau)—the chosen representatives for, respectively, China and Japan’s decennial fight for kung-fu supremacy—gradually uncover behind-the-scenes machinations from both sides attempting to rig the approaching contest, both eventually find themselves battling the same enemies, nationalities be damned. Alas, even for at least one of these two fighters, it’s not so easy to break free from firmly ingrained ways of thinking about honor and country. No spoilers as to who wins this Duel, but by the time the bitterly ironic main event rolls around, for all the high-flying exhilaration, rarely has there seemed less of genuine importance at stake in the larger scheme of things. Kenji Fujishima (Apr 16, 8:30pm; Apr 18, 1pm at Anthology Film Archive’s “Old School Kung Fu Fest 2015: Enter the Ninja”)