Sunday, December 26, 2004

House of Flying Daggers

House of Flying Daggers offers a sumptous display of Chinese martial arts done in an exhilarating ballet-like dances combined with colorful and flamboyant set decorations, meticulous costumes and breath-taking photography that captivates and hooks the viewer to an experience like no other.

Zhang Yimou, the director, has fashioned an intricate love triangle featuring Chinese cinema's current darling Zhang Ziyi (who just recently changed her name to Ziyi Zhang), Takeshi Kanisheru, one of Japan's biggest stars and Hongkong superstar Andy Lau.

Ziyi is Mei. She is a blind courtesan in the Peony Pavilion whose skillful dances regularly regales Jin (Kanisheru), an undercover policeman, who has been frequenting the pavilion in hopes of catching a member of the dreaded insurgent group House of Flying Daggers.

In one drunken binge, Jin tries to force himself into Mei only to be thwarted by the timely arrival of Leo (Lau), a Police Captain, who arrests Jin and in an attempt to weigh on the punishment for the alleged indecency of Mei, challenges her to play the Echo Game. This game will engage the blind Mei to follow the bouncing sound of the pea as it hits the drum and strike the exact spot with the weighted end of her long sleeve.

In a succession of spectacular sequences, Mei's true colors are revealed when she attempts to murder the Captain.

Mei is revealed to be the long-lost daughter of the leader of the Flying Daggers group. With this information, Jin and Leo hatches a plan to bait the group by allowing Mei to escape with Jin's assistance in hopes that she will lead them to the enemies' lair which will allow them to wage a surprise attack.

The story then shifts into the development of a love angle that seems innocent and ordinary at first but is later on revealed to be rooted in deception and treachery.

Yimou has crafted an exuberant and teriffic film that invites comparison to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". But this film impressively stands out on its own and delivers one stunning action and dance sequences after another.

In the film's long-drawn climax featuring the three main protagonists, the viewer is treated to an extravaganza of hues and colors in brilliantly photographed scenes of an intense and affecting battle between two men for the love of a woman who lays dying in snow-covered plains.

Yimou is an old romantic whose previous works in "Raise the Red Lantern", "To Live", and "Not one Less" provide scathing criticism of the current Chinese Regime disguised in lavish imagery and tricky narrative that somewhat one can't help but imagine that perhaps this final battle for the love of one woman is another love song to the pre-revolution China and that the difficult choice that Mei is left with in the end is what Mother China had to undergo in order to transform herself into a country to be proud of once again?

But whatever his reasons are House of Flying Daggers is one great piece of cinema.

Posted by Hello

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