Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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House of Flying Daggers

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We went to see House of Flying Daggers, 十面埋伏, yesterday. It’s the new film by Yimou Zhang who also directed the wonderful Hero. And it certainly maintains maintains that level of good-lookingness. There were fantastically coloured landscapes and generally generous playing with natural colours to fit into the scenes and go along with the costumes. That, by itself, is amazing and enjoyable to see.

Girl amidst bamboo scene

And then there is the story, which didn’t really match the visuals, and was rather simple: There’s the ‘House of flying daggers’ – lovingly translated as much less exciting ‘flying knives’ into German, that the king is scared of and that should thus be infiltrated and eliminated. So one policeman goes undercover and tries to win the trust of a member and find their leader. The member is a pretty girl and they end up falling in love. Then it’s a little love story and we end up with a bit of a mess where everybody ends up being the spy for some party, where her boyfriend is a bit upset, where some killing between the nice people starts who sort-of refuse to die reasonably quickly. – Erm, let’s just say I thought the end was a bit too unrealistic and too much Kitsch.

In between we get to see some of the usual fighting and acrobatics scenes, which are always enjoyable but stopped being original a while ago. I was told that jumping through high bamboo trees, sliding them down and fighting in there is kind of standard in Asian fighting films but this was the first time I saw it an I thought it was quite cool – particularly with the colours and everything.

Finally there’s the fighting. Enough but not excessively much of it, but the kind of ultra-accurate and cool looking fighting that we’ve been seeing a lot recently. We see swords, bamboo, arrows and – of course – flying daggers travel along ingeniously long and irreal trajectories to hit exactly what they were meant to hit. I quite like this approach where fighting is more like art or dancing or something than the brutish stuff you see in traditional action films. On the other hand it’s so irreal that I sometimes start doubting it even while sitting right in the film.

A film I’d recommend. But more for the images than for the story.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

January 19, 2005, 10:00

Comments

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Sven, we saw it last weekend as well, though I forgot to write anything about it. You basically wrote everything I would have said, anyway.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that Zhang Yimou’s use of color is reminiscent of Peter Greenaway’s?

January 19, 2005, 21:37

Comment by ssp: User icon

I haven’t seen enough of Greenaway’s films, but my impression is that I can see your point but wouldn’t agree entirely. I found Greenaway’s way of doing things colder and less natural.

However, I was strongly reminded of Takeshi Kitano’s Dolls in some of the nature scenes.

January 20, 2005, 14:43

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