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Posts Tagged ‘Zhang Yimou’

Shadow

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? SHADOW is the 2018 film by Zhang Yimou, the director best know to people like me for giving us HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS. It’s his followup to THE GREAT WALL, a pretty silly but impressive international production that has a bad reputation in the U.S. for exceedingly stupid reasons (basically, a great Chinese director wanting to make a movie with Matt Damon was mischaracterized as whitewashing). SHADOW is another gorgeous and meticulous period martial arts epic. Though quieter and less action-oriented than the others I’ve listed here it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. One of those ones that crept up on me. Slowly luring me in until I’m in awe of it by the end, and love it the more I think about it. I was lucky enough to see it theatrically, but waited for its arrival on Blu-Ray and DVD this week to finish my review, so that more people would be able to check it out.

This is a movie that’s a little under two hours and builds to a large battle with some really cool weaponry gimmicks and that thing I love where they come up with a philosophy-based martial art to defeat the enemy. But that’s really the cherry on top – it’s mostly about palace shenanigans. It’s about the kingdom of Pei, who lost the city of Jingzhou to rival kingdom Yang when Commander Ziyu (Deng Chao, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, MERMAID) lost a duel to Yang Cang (Hu Jun, RED CLIFF, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, FIRESTORM). Most of the people of Pei are still sore about it, but King Peiliang (Zheng Kai, THE GREAT WALL) is a coward and just wants to forget about Jingzhou. So he gets pissed and, to the outrage of the military, strips Ziyu of his title when he finds out he challenged Yang Cang to a rematch. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Great Wall

Monday, February 20th, 2017

THE GREAT WALL fulfills two different personal moviegoing habits of mine:

1) trying to see some of the higher profile Asian imports that play at the AMC theater here

2) going to lightly attended afternoon shows of almost every fantasy sword-dude movie that comes out

Maybe you can’t call this an import, because it’s produced by Universal and Legendary, it’s mostly in English and its star Matt Damon (SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON) is an American white in my opinion. And maybe you can’t call it a fantasy sword-dude movie either, because it’s more in a fantasy bow-and-arrow-dude vein. But it is from the great Chinese director of lush historical epics Zhang Yimou (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS), it’s the most expensive movie ever filmed entirely in China ($135 million), and it was released there two months ago and had already made $224.5 million worldwide by the time it came to us. So it’s close enough to these two categories that it piqued my interest.
(read the rest of this shit…)

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

tn_noodleshopThere’s a nice little tradition of cross-cultural, cross-genre remakes. The most famous of course is the Japanese samurai movie YOJIMBO becoming the Italian western A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. And recently I reviewed the Japanese samurai remake of the American western UNFORGIVEN. There was also BLIND FURY, that was an American action movie based on Zatoichi, and they didn’t even have to get cowboys involved at all. There are both Indian and American remakes of OLDBOY. This is a thing that we do now. If the story is strong enough it can work, and translate in different ways for different cultures.

Still, it was a surprise in 2009 when Zhang Yimou, director of gorgeous epics like HERO and RAISE THE RED LANTERN, took on the Coen Brothers’ lean neo-noir debut BLOOD SIMPLE. The dry, dusty tale of adultery, murder and dumb mistakes becomes a period Chinese story with broad comedy elements. It’s weird and not entirely successful, but interesting to a fan of this type of cultural outreach. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hero

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

HERO is no surprise. I knew I was gonna like this movie. I heard enough to know this was gonna be a good one. I mean it’s got that acclaimed director who did all those movies I haven’t seen like THE ROAD HOME. But then instead of doing another movie like that, what he does, he gets Jet Li and Maggie Cheung and Donnie Yen and Zhang Yiyi and he says, let’s do an awesome fucking epic with kung fu and swords and about ten million arrows.

This movie has been making the rounds for years. It got nominated for the foreign film oscar, and it played the seattle international film festival, and it’s been on DVD in Asia forever which is no problem for a worldly dude like me, I’ve been free of the region code shackles for years. Region 2, region 3, bring it on motherfuckers, I go all the way up to region 4, region 5 on a good day. I could do region 10 if they threw it at me, region 11, I don’t give a fuck. Anything. But here in region 1 Miramax was supposed to release HERO in theaters. What they wanted to do was leave it on the shelf for years and finally put it out when there’s less interest. That worked so well with SHAOLIN SOCCER. Unfortunately HERO was sitting on the shelf but then it fell off the shelf and got stuck behind the desk and nobody knew it was there. Then I think Tarantino dropped a pencil back there or something, so he reached back there and he felt HERO. So he pulled it out and dusted it off and he was like, “You guys still have this? You should, like, release it in theaters, where people go to watch movies projected on a screen.” (read the rest of this shit…)