The Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven (1961, 1964)

UIH pic 2

Mainland China. Directed by Wan Laiming

(Northsiders in Melbourne:) available to loan from City of Darebin Libraries,

Everyone else: can be bought on YESASIA.

Made by the same brothers who made Princess Iron Fan in 1941, this film features absolutely beautiful animation – the colours are glorious and the shapes and lines are graceful and vivid. It is a rollicking adventure tale depicting the adventures of Sun Wukong before he joins Tripitaka’s quest to fetch the scriptures from India. In this story, as the title suggests, he creates a ruckus in heaven itself.

UIH pic 3

I do not watch anywhere near as much animation as I do live action. What intrigued me especially in this film were the ways in which the fight scenes were depicted – the movement is extremely fluid and dynamic, which suggests to me that the animators of this film saw martial arts as performative and beautiful, something aesthetically exalted as well as fun to watch. As is par for the course with a movie set largely in the heavenly realms and / or featuring deities fighting each other a lot of the action happens while the characters are flying or hovering in the air – does this anticipate the heavy use of wire-fu later on? Perhaps wire-fu was already being used in live action movies made by the time this film was being developed – does anyone know?

An excerpt from the film can be seen here.

Below is the trailer:

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