Friday, February 05, 2010

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

I never got to see it when it first came out, but I watched Zhang Yimou's House Of Flying Daggers last night. This came out in the wake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,  and Hero, and it falls somewhere in between the two.  It lacks the grandiose battle scenes of Hero, while it also eschews the completely over the top fight scenes of Crouching Tiger.  Unlike the other two movies, House... is more of a romance story than an martial arts movie, which means that it does drag at times.

House of Flying DaggersOn the plus side, the cinematography is wonderful.  The use of colour, costume and setting is used to full advantage.  Also, since the heroine is portrayed as blind, sound plays a large part in the film--something that is both unusual for this kind of film and adds a delightful dimension to the experience.  The story has a very Shakespearian feel to it, which for the most part is a good thing (exceptions to follow).

On the down side, the love scenes are very heavy handed-intense, but strangely lacking in passion.  Also the ending is depressing as hell.  Not sad or melancholy yet ultimately cathartic, like Hero or Crouching Tiger--just depressing.  Much like a Shakespearian tragedy.  Adding to this is the fact that the romantic rivalry that leads to this depressing isn't introduced until very late in the movie, leaving the final duel without a solid foundation and leaving me with a feeling of detachment instead of the empathy I suspect was intended.

But overall it's a worthwhile movie to kill a couple of hours with, and serves as a reasonable introduction to the wuxia genre.  It has an added advantage of being a movie you can watch as a couple, even if your other half doesn't share your love of movies featuring wiry asian guys kicking the snot out of each other while yelling "Aaaaeeeeiiii!" a lot...

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