2005.01.12

Zhang Yimou is a hack

Comments

Zhang Yimou is a hack.

It’s sad to say, and I didn’t want to believe it (even after watching Hero — earlier thoughts here), but I’ve little doubt left after watching House of Flying Daggers, a movie of very little substance trying to get by on style alone*. Hero managed to just get over that hump; its story, despite being paper-thin, at least drove to a point (discussions of the distressing political message aside).

House, however, is a messy, bloated thing with nothing to say and no idea how to hide that fact. It’s filled with unconvincing plot turns and offers no emotional connection to any of the paper cutout characters (just one of the things that happens when you put Andy Lau in a film. He’s way outgrown his value as eye candy, although Takeshi Kaneshiro does his best to make up for that). As far as looks go, it’s not even top of Zhang’s own heap, and I like bamboo forest fight scenes as much as the next gal, but how many have we seen just in the five years since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

Can I just say that I can’t understand our country’s love affair with Zhang Ziyi? She’s good at two things: looking sullen and looking emotionless, and somehow this makes her China’s hottest actress?

But I digress!

I suppose Zhang (Yimou) has always been hit-and-miss as far as characterization goes. I had lots of problems with Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern because of a lack of sympathetic characters, but I could appreciate them as art pieces. But now, I just get the feeling he’s given up trying.

Also, the movie seems over-long at 119 minutes. Doesn’t seem promising for that oft-rumored extended cut of Hero that people have been drooling over**.

* usually lots of style, thanks to cinematographer Christopher Doyle (also a Wong Kar-Wai collaborator). But he’s not involved with House.
** there’s a “director’s cut” DVD floating around from Guangdong Face (the Chinese company that also released the original Chinese DVD) which is something of a farce — in reality only a few minutes longer and nothing of substance added. For that you get the bonus of terrible video quality!

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\n* usually lots of style, thanks to cinematographer Christopher Doyle (also a Wong Kar-Wai collaborator). But he's not involved with House.\n
\n\n
\n** there's a \"director's cut\" DVD floating around from Guangdong Face (the Chinese company that also released the original Chinese DVD) which is something of a farce -- in reality only a few minutes longer and nothing of substance added. For that you get the bonus of terrible video quality!\n
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