View Full Version : Zhang Yimou's HERO

Chris Knipp
09-03-2004, 01:37 PM
I have not yet seen the film. I'd like to quote a Yahoo Movies viewer's comment (which will be found here: http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&cf=info&id=1808404384) for what it has to say about the date and orgins of the film and the way it's been promoted in the US:

alright, lets get the facts straight
by neville1312
Aug 27, 2004
386 of 417 people found this review helpful . . .

First of all, there's a huge misconception about this film. Hero is not a Quentin Tarantino film, he simply brought it to the United States audience. It was filmed over two years ago across seas. I personally went out and bought it on dvd in 2002 and watched the subtitled version. And I found it to be spectacular. You're led to believe it's a nonstop breath-taking action film, when in reality it's a bit of a mystery. I am not satisfied at all with how the trailer that Hollywood has created for this movie, you're almost told too much and far too much misled. I still suggest people go see this movie in theatres, even if they think it's some new cutting edge Tarantino action flick. I think if anything, people should take this movie as a wake up call. They should take it as a notice to the fact that there is a whole world of great foreign cinema out there. And rather than stay couped up and isolated in their own hollywood realm, it is a good idea to go out and explore all the great cinema the world has to offer. I think they'll find that although language may be a barrier at times, great films still come across well to all audiences.

Early this year Rosenbaum had written the following in his roundup of 2003's year's best:

I suspect that the most meaningful film watching in this country in 2003 was done at home, by viewers who went out of their way to select videos and DVDs from a much wider pool than the latest releases. Only people who made a comparable effort saw some of the lower-profile items on my ten-best list. Of course many people were still expected to show up at the official trough, where they were fed whatever the industry had selected for them. There is one sign that the studios are a little worried that audiences aren't being as docile as they would like: Miramax and its parent company Disney are now just as aggressive about preventing our seeing some movies as in pushing others. It's estimated that Miramax owns the North American rights to at least 56 contemporary Asian films, only 21 of which it's bothered to release in any form, usually after recutting or otherwise altering them. When a Web site that doesn't sell movies, Kung Fu Cinema, recently provided links to sites where Americans and Canadians could order Zhang Yimou's Hero from overseas, Miramax slapped it with a cease and desist order. Apparently one shouldn't even think of seeing movies the company doesn't want to release. Fans of Asian films -- like the extremely popular Shaolin Soccer, which Miramax bought the rights to a couple of years ago and has sat on ever since -- are understandably livid.

oscar jubis
09-06-2004, 02:16 AM
I like those quotes so much I find myself with little to add. Hero is certainly being sold as an action film, as stated in the first quote. I guess it is that, to some extent, although it could just as easily be promoted as a lush, poetic art film or a historical epic. For me as a spectator, it works on all those levels. It's a movie that has so much to offer that one viewing is certainly not enough. It turned out to be more moving and inspiring than I concluded after one viewing. Like neville writes, Hero is a wake-up call to audiences: "there's a whole world of great cinema out there". Go out and explore.

Rosenbaum is acknowledging a real phenomenon occurring under the radar of the mainstream press: "viewers who go out of their way to select videos and dvd from a wider pool" and "the most meaningful film watching in this country is done at home" (which has more than one possible interpretation).

Chris Knipp
09-06-2004, 02:12 PM
If I'm learning this (perhaps somewhat belatedly for a film buff), surely a lot of other people in this country are also learning it.

And on a simpler more basic level, when you consider what's happened with Hero and Passion of the Christ this year, you kind of wonder how much longer the public and the distributors are going to go on claiming people can't tolerate subtitles.

09-06-2004, 04:50 PM
The only problem I have is that once again we have a superficial (albeit with meaning) and a supernatural film much like Amelie and Crouching Tiger being popularized in this country as great foreign cinema and it has because people do see the vastness just like what they find in hollywood summer releases. I bet most poeple are not able to understand the meaning behind the visuals so I'm not sure if this is a step forward in any way.

Chris Knipp
09-07-2004, 12:15 AM
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,
Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring, eh?

There's truth in that. But you may be assuming a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't stance. Just as the museums are flooded with people looking at Duchamp and Mathew Barney, the cineplexes flooded with crowds looking at a rarefied Jhang Yimou epic is a lot different from the little theaters where a few people went to see Rashomon in the Fifties. It's changed Asian cinema, and it's changed the American public's tastes. Of course I'm in an Asian-centric area, so I don't know how this plays in Wichita.

I personally much preferred this to Crouching Tiger, which I found quite hokey. The purity and elegance of Hero are awesome. If Crouching Tiger prepared the general audience to accept Hero, so much the better. Amelie is another story. That's treacly.

09-07-2004, 07:47 PM
I think it's you who made an assumption about what I said but nevertheless my personal opinions about the film didn't stop me for pushing it. Here once again a foreign film is popular and is being interpreted purely in visual terms by the general public hence it topped the B.O. again. This bothers me as narrative cinema is dying. Did anyone realize the fact that Hou's last film was released here theatrically and just recently came out on dvd, and no it's not ugly to look at. Infact it's opening sequence will give Wong Kar-Wai's fans a run for their money. But it also has a narrative drive, an arc just like the bridge on which the girl was running on. It's certainly not Hou's best but it still is better than 90% of the current releases and here i'm just using it as an example. Yimou has sold out and given in not just based on this film (for the record i didn't hate 'Hero') but also his latest 'House of flying Daggers' which I caught on a bootleg last night, but i'm sure it'll do well since it's beautiful to look at, it sure ain't 'Raise the Red Lantern', and those days are seemingly far behind him.

What do i want? I'm not sure myself, at times I might seem like the person who would force the general public to watch Bela Tarr but that's not true. I want people to have a choice and the people who want to see him shouldn't have to beg. American cinema since the seventies has gone in the wrong direction where people are brought into the theatres to be awed by the latest special effects these big guns have created and we all know who they are. I never doubted the intelligence of american public but i'm having some doubts and it's not all their fault as they have now gone as further away from the reality as possible where anything real starts to look fake.

Chris Knipp
09-15-2004, 08:27 AM
If Hero follows from Crouching Tiger, that's an improvement for the audience and us, I think.

I'm sure you're quite right that Hero has a complex narrative line, and I would have to see the movie at least onece more to begin to grasp it, despite the color-coding.

10-15-2004, 03:51 PM
Hero is powerful.

The images have a primacy that draws you in deep.
The story gives off an air of ancient sorcery. The special effects are hard to ignore, and one could be forgiven for drawing comparisons to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

But it's alright mama: it's poetry.

Yimou had me locked. This is some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. If you like a lot of visuals and little talking, then Hero is for you. If you like mythic, action-packed chop-socky then this one's for you. If you like old-time, asian-dynasty battle preparations, then this one's for you.

Bottom line: a beautiful asian film made by a beautiful asian filmmaker.

10-15-2004, 07:51 PM
Originally posted by Johann
Bottom line: a beautiful asian film made by a beautiful asian filmmaker.

Hmm, never thought he was that attractive...:)

10-16-2004, 01:11 PM
A man can call another man beautiful without getting beat up, can't he?

11-03-2004, 06:30 PM
I prefer Wong Kar Wei's underrated "Ashes Of Time" to Hero though a good film ,i have seen it all before,besides being an aussie i love the great photography by the legendary chris doyle.

Chris Knipp
11-03-2004, 07:01 PM
Totally agree, and you don't have to be an Aussie to love the brilliant imagery of Chris Doyle.

There's been some discussion of Wong several times on this site including here http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=280&highlight=wong+kar+wai.

and more recently here http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1000&highlight=wong

Incidentally I've heard Days of Being Wild is being reissued in theaters here soon by Kino International. I guess the website for the reissue is this: http://www.kino.com/daysofbeingwild/. and opening dates are:

Film Forum New York, NY November 19, 2004
Northwest Film and Video Cent. Portland, OR December 17, 2004
Nuart Theatre Los Angeles, CA January 7, 2005
Cinematheque Ontario Toronto, ON February 25, 2005
Castro Theatre San Francisco, CA March 4, 2005

I first saw all his movies in theaters, and it's certainly better to first experience images of such beauty and originality on a big screen. Then I got videos, then dvd's came out, and I must say this is one director whose stuff I can go over and over with pleasue. Wong, and the earlier John Woo, seem to be my favorite Chinese directors, though I think Ang Lee has made the best transition to English language films, particularly with Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm (my favorite) and Ride with the Devil. I'm looking forward to Lee's upcoming Breakback Mountain with young hunks Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger daring to play gay cowboys in Larry McMurtry's adaptation of Annie Proux's story--a pretty interesting idea and crew, at least, better than a Hulk; we'll see how it plays out.