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Thread: Zhang Yimou: House of Flying Daggers (2004)

  1. #16
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    It seemed to me that Suzhou River showed a strong Wong influence.

    To me, it also showed a strong Jia Zhang-ke (Xiao Wu) influence.

    I won't give the metacritic score of Suzhou River but I'll quote one of the review lines: "deliciously confusing." Well, yes. But does that a "Hitichcockian" feature?

    I will, it got a 76 and to quote another mainstream critic we don't know, "Seems deeply influenced by American film noir, the Western fairy tale (in this case, mermaids) and the works of Alfred Hitchcock in particular."

  2. #17
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    Purple Butterfly's dvd release date: 2/15/05. (Region 1)

  3. #18
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    Now that House of Flying Daggers is officially out, I can tell you some well known "news".

    Do you realize that House of Flying Daggers was NOT in any category for the Golden Horse Award? (which to Chinese films, is likened to Academy Awards)
    http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...&threadid=1082

    It was known in the Chinese news that they were worried that the likely failure to secure Best Film in Golden Horse Award would jeopardize their chance in Golden Globe and Oscar Award (because many Chinese have criticized the movie). So, they decided NOT to submit the movie even for other categories (which it might win). Now, it looks like they have only 1 category in Oscar -- Best Cinematography. They could have at least won a few more in the Golden Horse Awards.
    Last edited by hengcs; 01-25-2005 at 08:36 AM.

  4. #19
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    [Knipp]It seemed to me that Suzhou River showed a strong Wong influence.

    [arsaib4]To me, it also showed a strong Jia Zhang-ke (Xiao Wu) influence.
    Thanks for the addition. Could you tell me a bit about Jia Zhang-ke (Xiao Wu) and how his influence shows up in Suzhou River?

    hencs:

    Why has House of Flying Daggers done poorly with the Chinese critics, if that's what you're saying?

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-25-2005 at 03:17 PM.

  5. #20
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp

    Thanks for the addition. Could you tell me a bit about Jia Zhang-ke (Xiao Wu) and how his influence shows up in Suzhou River?
    Xiao Wu is quite possibly the best Chinese film made in the 90's after the The Blue Kite. In many ways this film started the most recent trend in Chinese auteur cinema by portraying the outsiders in the society heading fast toward modernization. Zhang-ke has focused all of his films on the youth, lost among this process. For example, the title character in Xiao Wu isn't sure where to spend his money on except call girls. Technically speaking, both films are far apart (Lou Ye chose a noirish look instead of Zhang-ke's somber approach), but thematically both films are very similar.

  6. #21
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    I loved Platform and Unknown Pleasures but the only connection I see (and it's not a strong one) between Lou Ye and Zhang-ke is their concern with youth. Then again, it's been "ages" since I watched these films.

  7. #22
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    message deleted.
    Last edited by hengcs; 01-28-2005 at 01:22 PM.

  8. #23
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  10. #25
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    hengcs:
    Why has House of Flying Daggers done poorly with the Chinese critics, if that's what you're saying?

    The following is a consolidation of many reviews/articles …

    (1) Making a film to win awards or please westerners
    In general, most Chinese prefer Zhang's earlier works. They feel that his recent works are "empty" (a chinese idiom would be "hua er bu shi", loosely translated to "looks grand but lacks substance"). They feel that Zhang is trying to please "westerners" or "win awards".
    -- Tell tale sign 1: House of Flying Daggers has ONLY an English song at the end, NOT even a Chinese equivalent (e.g., same tune but Chinese lyrics). It is weird to watch a Chinese martial arts film only to end with an “opera” like English song.
    -- Tell tale sign 2: House of Flying Daggers was NOT submitted for the various well known Academy Awards in the Chinese community (e.g., Golden Horse) for fear of losing. They are afraid it will jeopardize their chance in Golden Globe and Oscar.

    (2) Apart from plot (see 3 and 4 below), other criticisms include dialogues, costumes, lightings, and casting.
    -- Dialogue: (i) The dialogue mixes “period” and “contemporary” lingo (likened to half Shakespearean and half modern). (ii) A number of lines are not well crafted (often, the next person repeats the lines of the previous speaker with added words). Some find certain lines “dumb” (e.g., Mei, “I know now you are true.” A few moments later, “Are you true or fake?”). Strictly speaking, one or two lines are wrong, though the audience get the message (e.g., Leo, “Three years have passed, when I am alone, not a moment passed thinking of you.” The correct line should be, “Three years have passed, when I am alone, not a moment passed WITHOUT thinking of you.”). (iii) Familiar lines/plot (e.g., Leo, "Three Years have passed!" sounds like a line from Infernal Affairs.)
    -- Costumes: Although Tang dynasty is a vibrant era with daring/outlandish costumes, some insist that the costume/fashion worn by Zhang Ziyi is not exactly typical of the period. It only appears in Qing dynasty.
    -- Lightings: In the Peony Pavilion, with a completely sealed (roof and 4 walls) architecture, how can lighting be consistently bright?
    -- Casting: Several oppose the casting of Big Sister (she is also the Peony Pavilion owner). Originally, it was Anita Mui who passed away. They think the current female cast is too much of a “sitcom” actress. They simply cannot associate her with the role.

    (3) Most criticisms are targeted at the VERY WEAK plot …

    *MAJOR spoilers *

    Initially, why did Mei (i.e., Zhang) want to kill Leo (i.e., Andy)? The fight made even less sense when NO one was watching (e.g., at the tub). They knew each other, but he even wanted to drown her. Was it simply to lure Jin (i.e., Takeshi)? Why bother? After all, the officials had always wanted to track down the House. To kill Jin? Easy task, why go through all the trouble, esp. he was a nobody ... Why did Leo make the plan so complicated to allow Jin to “seduce” or “take advantage” of his girlfriend? Near the end, why did Big Sister of House NOT kill Jin, instead she asked Mei to lead him out (such that she had a chance to free him)? Near the end, the House was ambushed by officials. It made us wonder why did the House or Leo or Mei plotted so convolutedly just to get themselves ambushed (or even killed?) by officials. In the end, the entire story finally "dissolved" into a simple love triangle ...

    (4) Although I found nothing very wrong with the following, some people complained about …
    -- at the end, the CHINESE VERSION has Mei "not dying" 3 times! The US version has only 1 time.
    -- a blind girl identifying friends from foes (simply by listening), and running through the forest alone very fast without hitting anything. My take: she is NOT really blind.
    -- some people does not find it compelling she will foresake Leo (a lifetime partner) for Jin (a 3 day acquaintance). My take: love is blind!
    -- Leo's knife on his back at the end. Despite being injured, Jin took so long to fight with him. My take: Leo is really tough.
    -- the sudden blizzard. They feel that the two have been fighting for a long time, from autumn to winter. My take: I thought it is a very good metaphor.
    -- overall, everyone is NOT who they claim they are. Mei, Leo, Big Sister, etc ... another Infernal Affairs?

    In sum, most Chinese find that the movie deserves to win only technical awards and NOT the best film. It does not have sufficient DEPTH.

    Many feel that Ke Ke Xi Li (aka Mountain Patrol) is more compelling in terms of realism and story. The movie won the Golden Horse Award Best Film, over 2046!
    Last edited by hengcs; 01-28-2005 at 01:33 PM.

  11. #26
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    I thououghly understand and sympathize with the Chinese views. Your summary is excellent by the way; thanks. You're a great addition to this site.

    One thought: all these detailed comments show the Chinese take Zhang seriously, even if they don't like the movie! Another: his early movies were corny, his new ones are unbelievable. I don't see that as going downhill, only change. I think the Chinese audience is partly deceived into thinking that Zhang's ealier movies were better because they were more emotionally involving and more political. They were just as false in their way, in fact their falsity was more insidious. We know Hero and House of Flying Daggers are mainly glorious spectacles, and that to me is less annoying. You can sit back and just enjoy them. And whatever the detractors say, visually they are wonderful, and if you ignore the lack of historical accuracy, etc., this new one is romantic as well, sort of like Titanic.

    I prefer unbelievable to corny, but I sympathize with the Chinese concern about the historical inaccuracy of the costumes and dialogue. In both cases -- the earlier movies and the later ones -- he produced beautiful spectacles, and was careless about verisimilitude. The critics in China are right: the whole plot of House of Flying Daggers is absurd and unbelievable. I also agree with your takes on their criticisms of specifics, though, like the number of times she gets "killed" or how long the snow lasts, etc. It's poetry, not realism.

    This surprises me a bit though: "Leo, “Three years have passed, when I am alone, not a moment passed thinking of you.” The correct line should be, “Three years have passed, when I am alone, not a moment passed WITHOUT thinking of you.”). " That seems incredibly careless, when so much money and skill was being lavished on the gorgeous production.

    It's also very true, though we in the West need to be reminded of it: this like Hero also is a Chinese movie made for a Western audience -- and it's succeeded superbly, witness all the raves in the west, including Cannes and New York.

    When you say the dialogue is like half Shakespearean and half modern, well, Shakespeare's plays themselves are mixtures like that, ancient people in renaissance dress, as is western renaissance painting we get classical Greek and Roman or Biblical figures in Venetian or Florentine or Sienese or Flemish dress. This kind of syncretism is common in art and the modern convention of historical accuracy is largely just an illusion. We feel a movie's milieu is real (for me Girl with a Pearl Earring had that feeling). It's really not. To expect House of Flying Daggers to feel real would be naive. Does the Chinese audience think Hero feels real? Hero seems to me completely abstracted from any possible reality by many degrees more than even House of Flying Daggers. But that's not a criticism of it; I think they're both rather wonderful.

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