21 Sep Clan of the White Lotus Review by Silver Emulsion Film Reviews
It’s back to school time, so it’s a great time to Get Schooled with some Shaw Brothers training films during Shawtember (as if you needed an excuse to watch your favorite Shaw films!). Today’s film is Lo Lieh’s Clan of the White Lotus, and for my money it’s one of the most entertaining films in the Shaw catalog. There are definitely more emotional and dramatic films that are “better,” but when you’re in the mood for fighting and training, it really doesn’t get too much better than Clan of the White Lotus.
The film rockets directly into action with Hung Wei Ting (Gordon Liu) and Wu Ah Biu (King Lee King-Chu) finally defeating the treacherous Shaolin traitor, the white-eyebrowed Priest himself, Pai Mei. Their combined Tiger and Crane styles seem just about unstoppable… until they come up against Pai Mei’s white-eyebrowed brother, White Lotus (Lo Lieh). White Lotus avoids their blows with ease, every technique they trained in just isn’t working. Things seem hopeless when tragedy befalls Wu Ah Biu, but Hung soldiers on and dives deep into training. This is the basic formula of the film, a fight followed by training, and repeat. There’s only a slight, formulaic story around this, but this allows the film to blast out entertainment at an insane pace. Besides, what matters here is the cycle of training; the training is the story.
Hung Wei Ting tries to defeat White Lotus multiple times throughout the film, with varied results. He had previously trained his Tiger fist to the point of perfection against Pai Mei, but every problem thrown your way cannot be dealt with in the same manner. Especially within the upper echelon of any discipline (math, science, martial arts, etc), the quality and the intensity of the problems increase exponentially. They build on what has come before, but there comes a point where new theories are the only option for a solution. The arts and sciences are ever-changing, and with enough time they can solve (or defeat) any problem in their path. So presented with the immense mastery of White Lotus, Hung Wei Ting must think outside the Tiger and Crane style box he’s practiced within for so long.
His path to understanding comes not from self-reflection and thought, but from the help of friends who see the problem from a different perspective. Hung Wei Ting is a great fighter, but he is headstrong and stubborn. White Lotus’s style is so baffling that the traditional masculine energy of the Shaolin arts will never defeat it alone, no matter how powerful or fast Hung becomes. Here is where Hung’s wonderful, thoughtful sister-in-law Mei Ha (Kara Hui) offers her advice, and her suggestion is what really makes me love the film. Her “women’s kung fu,” later branded “Embroidery Fist,” helps Hung in his fight against White Lotus, but it also teaches a lesson of embracing the entirety of one’s humanity. To be too one-sided in anything is to be blinded to the total picture, and only through awakening to the Yin-Yang nature of existence can Hung unlock the ability to even strike White Lotus. It’s not just about power and speed, finesse is just as important.
Life is an ongoing learning process, and we must remain open to the changes and struggles it puts in our path. There is always room for growth, even for a master in a given field (such as Tiger style in the case of Hung Wei Ting). This idea is foundational in martial arts training, and it’s the reason life-long practitioners continue to practice and mature in their art. Clan of the White Lotus is one of the top training films in the Shaw catalog and it comes highly recommended from me!
Watch Clan of the White Lotus with Prime Video: http://amzn.to/2yr6oqm