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17 July 2005

House of Flying Daggers

Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro & Andy Lau
Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern)
Chinese title: Shi mian mai fu

I'm going to ignore Hollywood's summary here because it is inaccurate. Instead I'll say, quite simply, that this is one of the best films I have ever seen.

I will preface my discussion with two points:

1) I am not a big fan of martial arts movies, and I generally only catch the more popular ones like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Even then, I find my attention wandering during the beautiful fight sequences - waiting for the plot to continue. The heart, the emotion, is always lacking for me. Thus I was surprised by how much I love this movie.

However, if you are a fan of serious martial arts films with trained artists and traditional plotlines, this film may not be for you. The editing is more stylistic, the fights are shorter than most other martial arts films I have seen, and the movie is really a melodrama in disguise - the fights are there, but they are not the point or the true focus.

2) I cannot say much about the plot, point or true focus because Keven reads this, and he hasn't seen it yet. Suffice it to say a blind young woman may be the only key two army captains have to find the anti-government group known as "House of Flying Daggers," so they hatch a plan for one to kidnap her, win her trust, and hope that she will lead them to the renegades.

Zhang Yimou, after breaking up with his former partner and screen idol, the amazing and stunning Gong Li, has had trouble regaining his cinematic stride ever since (possibly because he keeps managing to piss off the Chinese government). But with Zhang Ziyi and his extremely patriotic ode to China, Hero, he has regained his strength as a master emotional storyteller. This film is as powerful as any of his previous dramas, including my former Zhang favorite, Raise the Red Lantern. Perhaps that is why I was affected so greatly - he is not a martial arts director by training. And his cast is not a martial arts cast. Zhang Ziyi is a dancer, Kaneshiro is a former child star, and Lau is the most honored pop musician in all of Asia.

Zhang Ziyi featured in EVERY fight sequence. She is a heroine for the ages, a most graceful and powerful presence. She is Zhang's new muse. Half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese Kaneshiro is the sexiest man I have seen in a movie in ages. And I don't mean just good-looking, but SEXY - the way he stares, the concentration on his face, the power he portrays in his character's evolution. I was completely enraptured.

I have said enough. Go. Watch it. Fantastic fights, a tremendously moving love story, and enough technicolor eye candy to keep the most jaded viewer entranced by this magical, unearthly and timeless movie.

Blogger Mircalla said...

I finally saw this film. Thanks for the recommendation. A short review is in my blog.


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