December 17, 2004

Another placeholder

Stupid offline life!

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, vol. 1

NIGHTWING: A Darker Shade of Justice

The Age of Innocence

Posted by Sarah T. at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

Placeholder

I'm so behind in reviewing, I have to note these down so I don't forget them:

God among the Shakers
Down and Out in Paris and London
WATCHMEN
ASTRO CITY: Life in the Big City

Posted by Sarah T. at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2004

Hero and The House of Flying Daggers (2004)

I have a lot of books to review or at least briefly note, but I'm taking the easy way out this evening.

Hero and House of Flying Daggers, as directed by Zhang Yimou, both have a vivid and sweeping beauty that you rarely see in Western cinema anymore, the Western epic movie having eschewed that style for a certain generally (if not always) hollow computer-enhanced grandiosity. In fact, the Western movie that these films remind me most of visually is The English Patient. Unfortunately, like The English Patient, very little lies behind the gorgeous exteriors of either film. They both lack coherent plots (Flying Daggers's is simply risible) or the meaningful emotional through-line that held Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon together. You walk out with a sense of having witnessed a spectacle, not a human journey.

Part of the weakness of Flying Daggers in particular must be attributed to Zhang Ziyi. At least to the Western eye (it's hard to say just how much is missed when one tries to discern nuance from dialogue in a language whose stress-patterns obviously have different meaning than English's), she has an effortful yet icy ingenue quality that reminds me of nothing so much as Winona Ryder's underrated turn in the otherwise unimpressive Age of Innocence. This served her to perfection in her role in Crouching Tiger, but after Hero and Flying Daggers, I have to ask if she has anything more to offer. She simply doesn't seem to have the depth, subtlety, and richness of Zhang Yimou's previous diva, Gong Li, and it makes it much harder for her to carry off a true heroine's part or to be a credible object of meaningful romantic obsessions.

I won't say that one shouldn't go see either of these movies. There are worse things to fill the screen with than gorgeously saturated color-compositions and elegantly-choreographed movement, and I'm sure they'll play better on the big screen than on television. Still, it's hard to understand what has prompted this director to make two such limited and shallow films after the gravity of his early work. I don't pretend to be any kind of connoisseur of Chinese film, but I still remember the awe and terror of Raise the Red Lantern and the bitter wisdom of The Story of Qiu Ju. Watching Hero and Flying Daggers is like listening to a talented composer of opera doing schmaltzy, if catchy, Disney-film musical numbers. I don't begrudge a creator's right to make money, but I do hope their motives aren't simply the same.

Posted by Sarah T. at 02:17 AM | Comments (0)