Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: High flying martial arts fantasy with gender ambiguity and women who are playing male characters.
Alternate Titles: Dung Fong Bat Bai: Fung wan joi hei
Year: 1993
Duration: 107 min
Language: Hong Kong/Chinese
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Siu-Tung Ching, Raymond Lee
Writer: Louis Cha, Tin-suen Chan
Starring: Brigitte Lin, Eddy Ko, Shun Lau, Waise Lee, Jean Wang, Joey Wang, Shi-Kwan Yen, Fennie Yuen, King-Tan Yuen, Rongguang Yu

The East is Red Trailer

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East is RedFrom the first scene, The East is Red (Swordsman III) is chock full of high flying martial arts fantasy action with women leads, and it had a big influence on the development of the ‘Xena’ series. (This is where the pinch comes from, for example.)

It’s also full of gender ambiguity. The main character is known as Asia the Invincible, a kung fu master who attained amazing powers by practicing the Sacred Scroll and castrating himself in Swordsman II. He is now a she in appearance, played by Hong Kong action star Brigitte Lin (Dragon Inn, Peking Opera Blues, Peony Pavilion), although always referred to as ‘he.’

We’re treated to a flashback of Asia kissing Snow (Joey Wong, Peony Pavilion), a woman who was his/her lover (so we’re seeing two women together). When Asia is presumed dead, Snow pretends to be him/her, including having a group of female concubines. One night she chooses a new woman to sleep with, and while making love, the new concubine turns out to be a man pretending to be a woman.

The plot? Well, it’s a wild fantasy involving the Ming Dynasty, the Japanese, the Dutch, and the Spanish, all looking for the Sacred Scroll held by Asia. One assumes that this is all metaphor for the political history of China and its invaders. The battles are filled with wire work and flying needles. Although Asia almost kills Snow for impersonating him/her, in the end, she is Asia’s one love. (AB)