The Sword of Many Loves



Reviewed by YTSL

What is this film other than a romance-rich fantasy (whose protagonist, a swordsman essayed by Leon Lai, falls for a mysterious character played by Cheung Man and is coveted by an expert poisoner portrayed by Michelle Reis)?  I don't know, and -- I would wager -- neither do the makers of this 1993 movie.  For the most part, with its various pig jokes, sexual innuendoes and fights involving watermelons, malt sugar and all sorts of poisons (some of which bring about incredible physical reactions) along with more conventional weapons, it does play like a good-natured parody of the often visually astounding swordplay dramas that were the rage in Hong Kong for far too short a while.  However, it should be pointed out that this work also has its share of unsettling scenes (e.g., a rape, a massacre of a wedding party, at least one decapitation, and the killing of a child by his mother, followed by -- I am NOT kidding... -- her using her bare hands to bloodily investigate the contents of his stomach [to prove a point she cares about but not that many others do]).

Which is the titled THE SWORD OF MANY LOVE(R)S?  Again, I don't know this answer; and wonder whether there really is one in light of the film's Chinese title being -- the very different -- "Flying Fox Story".  But then, I also would have trouble deciding who is a or the Flying Fox of the often disjointed story I saw unfold over the course of this rather strange -- to say the least -- and surely not particularly well edited movie!
Still, I have to be honest and say that I really don't care too much and actually enjoyed viewing this film even though it is unquestionably uneven, quite puzzling and often silly.  This is not least because THE SWORD OF MANY LOVE(R)S is absolutely chock-full of:  Incredibly weird characters (including a master villain -- who more than one person wants dead -- who is as prone to kiss as reprimand his horribly spoilt heir and a scorpion-eating, underground-burrowing dwarf who later gets poisoned and dies after his bones outgrow the rest of him); imaginative elements (including a fight that takes place inside of a well in the middle of a sandstorm); and attractive moments (notably those involving Leon Lai, Cheung Man and malt sugar as well as Cheung Man, Michelle Reis and a single bathtub).
Then there are the side-splittingly funny -- especially when you know their context -- lines which pepper this offering and include the following:  "You are to marry me and be my sex slave" (Michelle Reis' character to Leon Lai's); "You are indeed the world's lewdest man" (Cheung Man to Leon Lai); and "Why did you fancy my sword and my girls?" (Elvis Tsui's evil character to his arguably more morally corrupt son).  To top it off, there's the inadvertently hysterics-inducing typo that transformed a sought-after medical manual into "medical manure" along with the well meaning -- but not easily culturally (not just linguistically) translatable -- "may you be happy in hell" (N.B. It ought to borne in mind that the Chinese vision of hell is one where dead people can use hell monetary notes -- burnt as offerings by their living relatives and friends -- to bribe that domain's as-apt-to-be-corrupt-as-those-on-earth's officials)!
If you are the kind of person who requires a large dollop of logic with everything (even entertainment) and hate watching people bouncing and flying like there's no tomorrow as well as swelling up, breaking out in spots, howling like wolves and such like, this production -- whose ending was apparently deliberately left open for a (never made) sequel -- is one to definitely stay far away from.  However, should you possess the kind sense of humor well served by many a Hong Kong movie or have a particular appreciation of the kind of visual treats that wuxia fantasies often provide, this admittedly flawed -- yet far from entirely spoilt -- work ought to be worth checking out at some point.  And for those who fall into the latter two categories plus find at least one of the trio of Leon Lai, Cheung Man and Michelle Reis to be rather delectable, THE SWORD OF MANY LOVER(S) should provide quite a bit of viewing pleasure.

My rating for the film:  7.