Looking for more female-led Wuxia films written by Shiao Yi? Beautiful Swordswoman was released in the same year as Ringing Sword and improves upon the elements seen in that film. This time, it is also co-written by director Yang Su. If you haven't read our review of Ringing Sword, read it here.
The main character, Shiah Yuan Yuan (played by Wang Ling) appears as an unskilled daughter of a martial sect. Unbeknownst to many, she has been secretly learning martial arts. She’s assassinating several fighters based on a list. The more she assassinates, the closer she gets to the shocking truth about her family.
While Ringing Sword had many characters, this film solely focuses on Shiah Yuan Yuan and this allows audiences to follow long easily. The first half seems a bit random, as she kills many fighters without reason. Once the second half arrives, audiences are introduced to a flashback explaining her background. While it explains everything, the flashback scene is not edited like most flashbacks in film to differentiate it from the rest of the film moving chronologically. Also, it goes on for a very long time at nearly 15 minutes! It is clear that Shiao Yi had many ideas for this story; however, the movie format and direction hinder its potential.
Fight scenes are important in any Wuxia film and the ones here stand out from other Taiwanese Wuxia films at the time. Actors’ faces are shown clearly during fights so audiences get a sense that it is the characters themselves fighting. Very surprisingly, there are more early examples of wirework in here than its contemporaries (trampolines were more common for “flying” scenes then). There are also more weapons beyond swords, but revealing that would potentially spoil the movie!
Beautiful Swordswoman proves that Shiao Yi always had diverse ideas from the early stages of his career. Strong female characters with a tragic background are explored more thoroughly in his later works. Check it out if possible!*
*This film is on available on an out-of-print DVD released by Crash Masters in 2007, and may be found on eBay. It is in Mandarin audio with English and Traditional Chinese subtitles.