Sunday, May 15, 2005

House of Flying Daggers

I watched House of Flying Daggers a few days ago and was extremely impressed by it. House is by Zhang Yimou, the director of Hero, as well as other non-martial arts films like The Road Home and To Live, both of which I watched back in March. I'd heard a lot of mixed opinions on House, some people said it was much better than Hero, while others said it wasn't very good. I think it's a much better film than Hero, and that's saying something because I loved Hero.

Visually, Hero probably is stronger than House, but that's not to say that House isn't a gorgeous film. The scenes in the woods are so densely atmospheric, as are the scenes in the wheat field. I love the scene towards the end where Jin and Mei are lying in a field and the blue and green of their costumes stands out so much. The final scenes, in the snow, are also great looking.

However, what makes this film so great is the emotional content. Jin and Mei's journey through the countryside is really sweet, and does a great job of getting you emotionally attached to the characters. Then, everything falls apart once Leo turns up. I love the fact that there's no villain here. She loves Jin, even though logically she should be with Leo. But, the whole point of the film is, love isn't logical, and that's why she can't go with Leo. The end of the film is tough, but it's how it should end. In the society they live in, it's just not plausible for Jin and Mei to live a free life.

The acting in the film is top notch all around. Zhang Ziyi is great here, fully pulling off the blind act, and later in the film too. She makes you believe that she really is deeply in love with this guy, even though they've only known each other for three hours. The scene where Jin places a flower in her hair is some of the best visual acting I've seen. In this film, she acts mainly with her face, it doesn't matter what she's saying, her face tells you everything you really need to know.

Takeshi Kaneshiro is great here too. He was so brilliant in Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels, and here, he does a great job playing the 'Han Solo' role of the lovable scoundrel. In the moment when he turns back to go after her, you can see the way the events of the film have changed him. Andy Lau is solid too, making you sympathize with the character even as you're hating everything he's doing.

This is an impeccably made film. The visuals and sound, particularly the music, are all fabulous, but it's all in service of the story's emotional beats. The final images are haunting, and really evidence of Zhang Yimou's power as a filmmaker. Next from him, I want to seek out Raise the Red Lantern.

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