Sometimes inspiration comes from the most random of places, the most unexpected of moments. Instead of toiling away this afternoon, I took a long short break that somehow ended with me finally watching the 2008 movie adapation of the legend of Liang Zhu, also known as The Butterfly Lovers (武俠梁祝). I think it was a Zhong Wu Yen tangent actually, one Chinese folk legend leads to another. And perhaps a Sungkyunkwan Scandal tangent as well, as that story is about 99% inspired by the legendary and inglorious love affair that never was between Liang Shan Buo and his cross-dressing scholar roommate Zhu Ying Tai.
Let me preface by saying the Liang Zhu love affair was probably all love and no affair, as likely these two barely grazed hands before all hell broke loose. The story itself I find both lame and intrigiung. Lame because for the most part the hero is dorky and had a weak constitution – how can I cheer for that? Intriguing because it was a teenage cross-dressing tale set in the Jin Dynasty, like 1000 years ago, with a daring and feminist heroine. Too bad the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet ended…..just like its Italian counterpart.
The latest adaptation of the Liang Zhu story was an idol re-imaging of the story set not in the scholarly world but in the wuxia world. Omo, it’s like my fanfiction come true! Normally I’d be all rabid over this movie when it aired, but I was busy with life and just never got around to watching it. The fact that the movie starred Taiwan’s #1 Robot Wu Zun didn’t exactly spur me to camp outside the movie theaters. But I always found lead acress Charlene Choi to be entertaining, in small doses.
Anyways, long story short, I watched this baby this afternoon and it was like a hallelujah moment descended upon me. I simply HAD to post about it. And not in any review or recap format, this sucker was begging for the minstrel treatment. I hereby bring you: The Butterfly Lovers according to a koala high on happy leaves.
Before I begin, just in case anyone thinks I hated this movie, au contraire, I loved it! It was singularly one of the stupidest movies I have watched in a long time, and totally enjoyable for the combination of gorgeous eye candy and the worst screenplay and direction the HK side of Uwe Boll. Verdict: this is a movie best enjoyed via screencaps for the pretteh, which is what I’m going to bring you.
A Story Told In Screencaps:
A fair maiden once lived, so fair she wanted to be free – so she decided to cross-dress and become a boy.
A dashing young warrior once lived, so robotic he wanted to feel alive – so he decided to get drunk and engage in some street fights.
They meet cute on the streets, in the midst of a brawl so fierce everyone had time to put on some extra sunscreen and pose a little first.
Our lady-in-disguise shows up at a training facility to learn some wuxia, and no one suspects she’s a gal mainly because the eldest disciple is prettier than she is.
The dynamic duo is born, otherwise known as the pretty one and the tomboy.
Look at my fist, isn’t it just as pretty as the rest of me?
Yes, that is the very look a girl trying to pretend she’s a boy should be looking at another man with – it screams “what kind of moisturizer are you using?”
Oh, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know you were topless in here, despite the sign outside which reads “I am topless in here.”
And I totally didn’t realize that you like to bath outside naked either, even though this time you forgot to wash your hair. Need some help?
Can you PLEASE stop barging in everytime I’m about to disrobe, you have the oddest timing, roomie.
Darning our own clothes is a technique we teach here, it allows us to get in touch with our feminine side.
Do you really have to leave? But we were just getting to know each other. The next big milestone is bathing in the lake together. Don’t faint now!
I’m so glad you’re cool with me piggybacking you, the other guys would rather swallow a sword than get on my back.
What? You’re a girl? I never suspected! But will you wear this butterfly hairpiece for me, because I just realized that I wuv you.
What? This other dude is forcing my honey to marry him! Grrr, but we’ve got matching butterflies on my sword. She’s my soulllllmate.
Look how awesome I am fighting an entire magisterial army. Me lookee good holding sword.
Out of my way, minions. Nothing stands between a man and the man-woman he loves!
Hhhmm, that didn’t go so well. Got hurtz, a lot. Thankfully nothing marred my perfect face, whew. But back to my dahhhhling, what should I do?
Girlfriend say what? You don’t love me? You just liked looking at my ridiculously cut body? You are such a tease! Argh.
I’m so silly, she does love me, but she’s being forced to marry a douchebag. I need to rethink my strategy – better to just off one dude, the bad fiancee! You may have a bigger sword but I have a bigger….love for her.
[Inside Hu Ge’s mind: Shit, what I am doing here, playing an obsessive domestic violence prone second male lead. I am Guo Jing, dammit! And I’m playing second fiddle to a robot. Sigh, back to making crazy jealous face.]
She’s dead! You caused her death! But I still want her, so stop being such a killjoy and staring at me, and lemme go with her.
[Inside Wu Zun’s head: Don’t think, just throw you head back and scream, apparently that means rabid grief. Don’t worry, you still look gorgeous.]
Where am I going? I don’t know, a place where carrying a dead body isn’t freakish and disturbing.
Oh wait! Maybe she’s not really dead? Why didn’t I try the kiss of life yet. Kissing pronto! Forgets that I have gaping neck wound that is gushing blood.
Well, that’s didn’t so much work. I guess we’ll always have the alterna-universe where we lived happily ever after in a wonderland.
Since the legend of Liang Zhu was a Chinese folkstory, modern adaptations – whether in dramas, movies, operas, ballets, or even musicals – have taken liberties with the bare-bones story. The Butterfly Lovers 2008 is no exception. And my rendition of the movie took those exceptions even further. What really happened was the Zhu Ying Tai wanted to become learned, so she enrolled in a institution. On her way there, she met Liang Shan Buo and they got along so well they pledged to become blood brothers.
At the school, they were best friends and roommates, for THREE years, while Zhu fell in love but Liang remained oblivious to her true gender. She was summoned home one day, and before she left she told him to come to her house and she will introduce him to her “sister.” When he arrived, he realized the “sister” was his roommate all along, and they pledged their troth. But when it was revealed that Zhu was betrothed to another man, Liang fell ill, went home and promptly died, of heartbreak or a wimpy constitution, we shall never know.
On her wedding day, the wedding procession passed by Liang’s grave, and Zhu got out of the paladin to go weep at his untimely passing. At which time the grave opened up and she hurled herself into it and the grave closed back up. So the lovers died, and two butterflies emerged from the grave, symbolizing the freedom and unity this pair of star-crossed lovers found at last. Be it that the subtext of the story (a woman burying herself alive over the death of a guy) is thoroughly repugnant, it’s a folk legend and I’m not going to quibble with them folks.
In the last two decades, the Butterfly Lovers has hit the big screen twice, and the small screen twice as well. The more notable ones include:
Nicky Wu and Charlie Yeung in 1994 with the Tsui Hark movie The Lovers;
and Peter Ho and Angel Dong did it in 2007 with a mainland drama. I liked but didn’t love the former, and won’t touch the latter with a 20 foot pole.
In the end, watching The Butterfly Lovers 2008 was very entertaining, with its weird execution, terrible dialogue, ridiculous pacing – but all of it tempered with a very intriguing concept and a cast that may not have aced any acting lessons, but at least looked pretty enough it make it all worthwhile. I would only recommend watching this movie if you (1) are a Wu Zun fangirl, (2) have a delightful sense of the absurd, or (3) love wuxia-izing eveything.
[credit: screencaps are as identified, the rest are from online news articles]