January 4th, 2005

wanking

A Plague on your House of Flying Daggers (spoiler-free review)

Prologue:

Two factions, both alike in ruthlessness,
In fair China, where we lay our scene,
From recent grudge break to new mutiny,
Where guilty blood makes all hands unclean.


Because if you can keep Romeo & Juliet in mind (and Shakespeare's tragedies in general) then you'll find that House of Flying Daggers is exactly your cup of tea.

Act One: What has gone before
I was never a huge fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was pretty, and it amused in places, but it was ultimately unfulfilling - the characters unsympathetic and the plot unfulfilling. Worth a watch on the big screen for its cinematography, but certainly not deserving of the fuss it caused.

Hero I liked moreso - seen as a big-top event, full of acrobatics, gorgeous backdrops and high drama it was a comic-book writ large. Demi-Gods clashing their way through armies, each shot perfectly composed, a true work of art. Sadly, there was only enough plot for a tenth of a film, bulked up by repeating it five times. An excellent example of what it was, but ultimately unengaging except as spectacle.

Act Two: Just what you expected.
It was thus with low expectations that I entered the cinema - I'd seen the trailer, I knew it would be pretty, I just didn't know if there would be anything more than that. In fact, as per usual the trailers had shown several of the early 'money shots' - leaving me with nothing to do in the first half-hour but work out which one we were leading up to and how it would be slotted in. The plot was nice enough, but nothing more than something to hang some martial-arts sequences onto. A beautiful assassin, a charismatic cop, betrayal and revolution - nothing I haven't seen before dozens of times.

Act Three: Lo! What light through yonder window breaks?
And then it turned into something altogether better - a romance, wherein real people wrestled with real emotions. Situations were reversed, characters were troubled, nobody was sure who they could trust - if they could even trust themselves. Suddenly, underneath their godlike abilities and balletic destruction, we were watching real people.

Act Four: All are Punished!
And so it comes down to this - when emotions are high, and your friends betray you, all the polished motions and slow-motion smoothness mean nothing compared to the hard-edge of metal, the softness of flesh and the decisions that tell you who will live, who will die and who (if anyone) gets to go home again. The director tells you what you always knew - the clash of battles means nothing - the anonymous death of multitudes isn't important, it's the personal tragedies we care about.

Not the best film of all time, it's very slow in places, which set the scene for me perfectly, but will bore to tears those that want to just get to the fight scenes. If you're just in it for the swords then knock a point or two off: 9/10

ObQuote: No, keep it in. You look more convincing with a dagger in you back.
Illuminati

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(gacked from nickysThe Goddess Herself)