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[FILM] Silk Brocade Soaked in Blood and Passion

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  • chiayuan25
    Silk Brocade Soaked in Blood and Passion By A. O. SCOTT Published: October 9, 2004 The New York Times The Chinese director Zhang Yimou first came to the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2004
      Silk Brocade Soaked in Blood and Passion
      By A. O. SCOTT
      Published: October 9, 2004
      The New York Times

      The Chinese director Zhang Yimou first came to the attention of
      American audiences in the early 1990's, as the maker of stirring,
      visually glorious tales of historical turmoil and forbidden love
      like "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Ju Dou." Then, later in the
      decade, he entered a neo-realist phase, with rough-hewn, modest
      stories of peasant indomitability like "Not One Less" and "The Road
      Home." Now in his early 50's, Mr. Zhang has embarked on the third
      chapter of an already dazzling career, reinventing himself as an
      action filmmaker, first with "Hero," a late-summer hit for Miramax,
      and now with "House of Flying Daggers," which Sony Classics will
      release next month.

      Set in the twilight of the Tang Dynasty, and filmed, from the look
      of it, at the peak of China's foliage season, "House of Flying
      Daggers" is a gorgeous entertainment, a feast of blood, passion and
      silk brocade. But though the picture is full of swirling, ecstatic
      motion, it is not especially moving. A Chinese mainlander's tribute
      to the sword and martial arts epics of the past, most of which were
      produced in Taiwan and Hong Kong, it also echoes the widescreen
      Technicolor westerns and musicals that the Hollywood studios cranked
      out in their early battle against television.

      Mr. Zhang, who once directed a production of "Tosca" with a cast of
      thousands in Forbidden City in Beijing, possesses an operatic
      ability to turn intimate stories into grand spectacles. His diva of
      the moment is Zhang Ziyi (also the star of "Hero" and "The Road
      Home"), whose delicate facial features fill the screen and whose
      lithe movements animate the film's heady combat choreography.

      Ms. Zhang plays Mei, a blind courtesan who turns out to be a member
      of the Flying Daggers, a shadowy squad of assassins waging a
      guerrilla insurgency against the corrupt and decadent government.
      She is pursued by two government deputies, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin
      (Takeshi Kaneshiro), whose loyalties come into question as the chase
      turns into a love triangle. Everyone is engaged in several layers of
      deceit, and some of the third-act revelations are more likely to
      provoke laughter than gasps of amazement.

      But realism is as irrelevant a criterion here as it would be in an
      Italian opera. The movie is about color, kineticism and the kind of
      heavy-breathing, decorous sensuality that went out of American
      movies when sexual candor came in. Occasionally, Ms. Zhang bares one
      of her lovely shoulders. If she showed any more, the projector might
      catch fire.

      It might any way, from the sheer audacious heat of some of the
      action sequences. Two in particular - the "echo game" set piece that
      takes place in a brothel and a later battle in a grove of whispering
      bamboo - are likely to become classic reference points, cherished
      like favorite numbers from "Singin' in the Rain" or "An American in

      It is a commonplace that action movies are closely related to
      musicals, and few directors prove the point with as much discipline
      and flair. The bamboo-forest scene is not just a bravura exercise in
      vertical and horizontal choreography, as fighters swoop down from
      the leafy canopy and scurry across the ground. It is also a heroic
      feat of sound design, with the whistle of the bamboo fronds played
      in counterpoint to the impact of cudgels and spears.

      The story inevitably gets lost in this sensory barrage, and it is
      hard to feel much for the three lovers as they sing their climactic
      arias of jealousy and betrayal. The final confrontation takes place
      in the midst of a sudden snowstorm, which envelopes the sun-dappled
      field that had, a few moments earlier, been a perfect spot for al
      fresco love-making. And "House of Flying Daggers" itself, for all
      its fire and beauty, may leave you a bit cold in the end.

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