Saturday, February 14, 2009


Ying xiong; Drama/ Action, China, 2002; D: Zhang Yimou, S: Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Chen Daoming

Ancient China. Nameless warrior enters a castle to get praise from the Emperor because he killed three dangerous assassins in the Qin province. Nameless tells his story: in a temple, he killed a dangerous fighter called Sky. The other two, Flying Snow and Broken Sword, were lovers. When Broken Sword had an affair, Flying Snow killed him, and then Nameless killed her. But then the Emperor realizes that the whole story was a lie and Nameless admits he struck a deal with the assassins in order to kill him from revenge. But Nameless spares the Emperor's life and the guards kill him. Broken Sword and Flying Snow commit suicide.

Nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best foreign language film, "Hero" is an opulent martial arts history epic that contains fine details, but also banal cliches about honor. Zhang Yimou, who before exclusively directed almost dramas, invested the 40 million $ budget really well, but his parallels with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in action are obvious: that's most obvious in the scene where drops of rain "freeze" in the air while warriors Nameless and Sky pass through them or when Nameless and Broken Sword are fighting by jumping and gliding on the surface of a lake. Lot of things are unintentionally comical (Emperor's soldiers lie down on their backs and start shooting arrows from a bow on their legs while the students in the school just continue writing while the arrows are hitting them), no matter how well they are directed and how some critics try to justify them, actually some are so absurd that they seem as if they fell out from Oedekerk's parody "Kung Pow", but on the other hand some moments are real equivalent of poetry (servant Moon dies while the yellow leaves from the forest turn red). Also, the film gathered quite a substantial amount of attention for it's controversial political subtext: unlike numerous Western films that praise love and democracy, Yimou here takes a completely different approach and praises authoritarian government as something superior to liberty and human rights. If the sole hero wasn't so one dimensional, this ambitious film would have been better. And much more realistic!


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