kaigou: Skeptical Mike is skeptical. (1 skeptical mike)
[personal profile] kaigou
Okay, it's not quite questionable taste theater, and it's not [personal profile] glvalentine's usual cinematic stomping grounds, but some of these really need the snark liek woah. Since the esteemed madame isn't doing it, I might as well. I have screenshot power and I'm not afraid to use it.

First up: the decently good. Possibly even better than good, if you overlook the commentary prompted by the Yang clan's armor, which apparently looked too much like samurai armor for audience tastes. I'm not sure why, since the Yang family was Han/Song dynasty, so ranged from the late 900s to about 1040 CE. Which I'd take to mean that it's actually that samurai armor looks a lot like Chinese armor, not the other way around, but it's a tetchy subject all the same. Other than that, though, The Young Warriors is more historical with notes of wuxia, than full-blown wuxia. You can tell, too, because the costumes are fairly decent. Unfortunately, I didn't bother d/ling, so I've been watching on youtube, but hopefully it's enough to get the gist.

For starters, the older brothers are more subdued, with dad the most somber of all. The younger you go, the brighter the colors, unless you're a woman, in which case you also get bright colors. Plus, makes it easy to pick out the focal points onscreen: fifth brother's in brighter orange, and eighth brother is in purple/maroon. Mom's on the left, and Dad in deep brownish-red is to the left, behind her.



A better shot of youngest brother's daily wear. Looks decently similar to my historical costuming texts, in terms of the cut, color, and decoration. Probably some ahistorical in there, but not outrageously so. Generally seems to be what a young (maybe age 16 or so) man of a renowned family might wear.



And then seventh brother, whose darker clothing is a counterpoint to his more playful personality, but he gets bright-colored sleeves. Like Mom, it's a whole layering thing. Lots of layers, and I couldn't get a shot of it, but the sleeves with each successive cuff just peeking out... well, if you've seen Heian clothing, it's the same stylistic concept.



Then there's ones like Return of the Condor Heroes, which are moderately okay to adequately okay (like Strange Heroes and Chinese Paladin, neither of which I saved to disk so no screenshots for you). I think RoCH gets a higher-quality of costuming mostly because it's one of the best-loved and biggest-hits of the wuxia (literary) genre, so it's not exactly something you can adapt and scrimp on. It took me a few episodes to figure out the costuming logic, though.

The older the characters, the more likely they're going to look at least something like a historical attempt. Like, someone took more than a few seconds passing glance at old pictures and texts. Not saying these are something you'd want to study up on, just that they're not egregiously ahistorical, only moderately so. Older folks also get the more somber colors (again except for any non-Taoist female characters).



Except that every now and then, something sneaks in. Like that hat. I really have no idea what's going on with that hat.



Also, if the person has major braids in the hair, or has braids and various dangly-things (beads or bells) across the forehead, the character is mongolian. This makes for a handy visual reference. Braids? Check. Mongolian! (Most of the time this is basically the same as saying, "bad guy", except in RoCH, where they seem to be more neutral.)



To pass for Mongolian and thereby avoid the Big Bad trying to kill you? Put some braids in your hair. Also, wear fur. I almost forgot: fur is the other visual code for Mongolian. This is an easy disguise, but apparently it works.



You can tell RoCH is a higher level of wuxia, because when characters are dumped into water, or fall into water, or get splashed by water... they actually get wet. And may even stand on the shore afterwards, dripping. I know! Amazing. Or maybe it's that only the cheaper productions use poly-fabric that dries instantly. Also, higher quality means when someone is supposed to be dirty and beggar-looking, there may even be actual dirt.



However, the younger the character, the more likely the costuming is to go off the rails. The girl is wearing a knitted beret. With dangly knots in the back, tied in a little bow. I swear it looks just like one my grandmother made for me, as a kid, except mind didn't have the wilted-beanie strings off the back.

Also: yes, the guys at far left and far right do have mullets. It's not the best shot, so you may have to take my word for it, but I wasn't going to dedicate an entire picture for the beanie or the mullets. But I suspect (given the characterization of the two brothers) that "mullet" means "so completely uncool and totally unaware of it" in wuxia, just like it does everywhere else. Some things are clearly universal.



There are no rules required, however, if you're a villain. You can even dye your hair! And be a daoist nun, like this woman, who might otherwise look like a nun (including the white horsehair switch that's one insignia of being some level of rank, iirc) -- except that if you're an evil nun, you can also have purple hair.

Also: Mongolians onlooking, at ten o'clock!



This has nothing to do with costumes, but all shots of water in RoCH freak me out, just a little. The only time I've ever seen freshwater lakes or creeks in this shade of blue, it's because the lake's been poisoned by pollution or acid rain, and nothing's living in there any more. I don't think it's a filter, because that'd just color the water, not make it crystal-clear to be able to see the trees and whatnot in the water. So, neon blue. Is that natural? I have no idea.



...and then there's the bad. The eye-searing, hair-pulling, holy-crap-that's-bad, bad. Like Dan Ren Wu, which is just... wow. Y'know, Nicholas Tse does a decent job making his character both melancholy and disapproving but also sweetly amused at his reluctant wife's antics (she keeps trying to run away from the whole arranged marriage thing). And while the wife/main character could've gone really wrong with the spoiled willful idiocy taken several steps too far several times too many, Angelica Lee does her best with it, coming across more as simply naive, rather than petulant or stupid. (I still think she's the poor producer's version of Vicki Zhao, though.)

Oh, the series tries. Or maybe it's not that it tried so much, as that its head costumers happened to have the keys to the storage center from a previous drama or two. And for background characters and secondary characters, why, that's good enough. But when it came to anything original for the drama, they hired some designer whose sole experience consisted of the circus. On acid.

Which means as long as it's secondary characters, you get shots like this, which seem to be sort of like the wuxia equivalent of medieval dramas, movies, epic fantasy. Various things pulled off the rack because they were in the actor's size, so that's good enough: generic medieval garb. Not any one specific time period, but kind of a mix. Not a terribly egregious mix, just... mix-ey.



Which means that in any given scene, a costume made solely for this production by the reputed costume designer... kind of stands out. Or more like, it doesn't stand out so much as reaches through the screen and punches you, and then jumps up and down on your head.

Yes, she's the most capable female in the martial arts world! Too bad the same can't be said for whomever designed that atrocity she's wearing.



What's wierd is that some NPC also get the wacky treatment, too. Or maybe there weren't enough leftovers in the storage center in the actors' sizes, so they went with making something new for these guards. It's just a little disturbing though, to see they got the fabric from the annual November sale on poly-satin halloween costume fabric at the local Beijing Hancock's.



But apparently, the introduction of laces, grommets, studs, and various other random decorations is just a signal that someone is a martial artist. Err, a pugilist. (No, I have no idea why that seems to be the preferred translated term, but that's what I see everywhere: pugilist. I bet an English teacher edited that on wiki, years ago, for the sole purpose of forcing students everywhere to look it up. At least the teacher didn't go with 'bellicosers', although I'm waiting to see that in the fansubs, who already hurt my eyes with 'exponent' for 'expert' and 'assassinators' for, well... yeah. I keep wanting to screech, "like DEMENTORS!" every time I see that in the subs.)



Bright colors, check. Bold, graphic, applique (not embroidery), check. Remarkably modern (female) hairstyle, check. Must be a fighter, err, pugilist! You have to work hard to get to wear clothes this bizarre-looking, after all.



My theory is that in wuxia, there are no belts to indicate degrees. There is only spandex, polyester, and color-combinations created by random drawings from an old bucket someone left on the set from the last production. The more you make viewer eyeballs bleed, the higher your belt-level as a character. Me, I always thought the belt system was meh (and horribly complex in some arts where it's dual or even triple colors within each color-level), but anything beats being required to dress like a reject from Barnum and Bailey Circus. Like, say, these guys.



Exception: if you're the second-lead chick who won't get the OTP. In which case you have to have extra froofah to make up for the fact that the script is going to write you as spoiled, petty, back-stabbing, deceptive, and possibly also psychotic.



Yes, those are bright pink feathers in her hair, and I'm pretty sure those earrings were stolen from the babysitter I had in the early 80s. I have no idea what crawled up across her shoulders and died, though.



And then... there's the point where you can't even take the story seriously, because the visual is just too much. Like this shot. We start far away, and it's clear the costumer wanted to make sure you look in a particular direction. Up near the top, just a hair to the left of center, is the focal point of the camera's direction.



...until it closes in on the poor main male lead, and all I can think is: OMGWTF.

A reviewer described his costume as someone doing an homage to Matrix:Reloaded, but with tribal. I'd add that this is all true, except the costume was originally designed for a Las Vegas production of Siegfried and Roy. All we're missing is the hoops of fire and the lions.



The pathetic excuse for a belt-sash, and that not-a-buckle, uhm, buckle-thing on his belt, though? DO NOT GET ME STARTED.

It's not a one-time thing, either. I'm not sure whether to applaud or cry for mercy over the fact that the male lead's only other garment is... kind the same thing, but reversed. Did they think no one would notice they couldn't be bothered to give him more than one costume? Or does this count as one-and-a-half, seeing how the second is basically just the first, flipped and wrapped instead of... however he gets into the first. Zipper up the back?



But that's not what made me really cry, and then run away screaming to the relative sanity of a series like RoCH. It's this shot, when we get a good look for the first time at what he's wearing under that cheap faux-brocaded poly-satin tribalized low-rent lion-tamer outfit: appliqued turqoise pants and those boots, holy crap, all he's missing is the fringe and some sequins and he's all ready for his weekend at the Bar-T Dude Ranch.



This is not photoshopped in any way! But I suspect more stories could benefit from making sure the actors actually got copies, too. Or at least of making sure there was a screenwriter around to create one in the first place. Plots, people. Plots are good.

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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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