Archive for the ‘Zhang Yimou’ Category

Monsters and Black Powder

The Great Wall

Director: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Tian Jing, Lu Han, Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin

Chinese director Zhang Yimou has contributed immensely to Chinese cinema and that of the world. His exceptional films include Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern which won the Bafta for Best Foreign Language Film back in 1993. His more recent works include Hero, Flowers of War and more recently Coming Home.

Almost all of Yimou’s films are in Chinese featuring an oriental cast yet after he made Flowers of War with Oscar winner Christian Bale it was only natural that Hollywood would court him with the lucrative offer of making a Big Budget action film. The Great Wall starring Oscar winner Matt Damon and Chilean actor Pedro Pascal recently seen in HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones has been ridiculed for its casting and its implausible plot.

Yet despite all its detractors, Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, a historical fantasy epic is still breath taking to be hold even if the script and the acting needed some rescuing. Damon and Pascal play European mercenaries who land up at the Great Wall of China only to be imprisoned by Commander Lin played by Tian Jing. The Europeans so oddly out of place in ancient China especially when Pascal’s character Tovar keeps on saying amigo are embroiled in an ancient battle against the Tao Tse, vicious monster like creatures which periodically attack the historic fortification.

Damon stars as William and Pascal plays Spanish mercenary Tovar who join the fight aided by a desire to steal gun powder from the Chinese and take back to Europe to bolster the many continental wars raging far away in England and Spain. Instead they are unwillingly co-opted by The Nameless Order to fight these savage beasts and protect the ancient Chinese city from being invaded and destroyed.

Whilst the battle sequences are breath taking and the fight sequences are watchable, this is by no means Zhang Yimou’s best work. Perhaps he should stick to an all Chinese cast and rather do imperial films about ancient China which he was so brilliant at directing especially the visually spectacular Raise the Red Lantern.

The Westernization of this great Chinese director is not good if The Great Wall is anything to go by. Whilst the action fantasy film is enjoyable it’s by no means brilliant.

And what was Matt Damon thinking? He did The Great Wall after The Martian, which as in both films he is equally out of place in. Even Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Shadow of a Vampire) looks bewildered in The Great Wall playing Ballard, a double crossing European trader who is only after the Black Powder.

Despite all the monsters and lavish battle sequences, director Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall only scores a 6 out of 10 which doesn’t bode well for future Chinese American co-productions especially considering that this film bombed at the North American box office.

On the up side, The Great Wall remained number 2 on the South African box office for a second consecutive week.

Red Detachment of Women

Coming Home

Coming Home

Director: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Gong Li, Chen Daoming, Zhang Huiwen

Another film set during and after the Cultural Revolution is Coming Home, the latest film by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou who brought such classics as Raise the Red Lantern and the more commercially accessible The Flowers of War.

flowers_of_war_ver5

Coming Home as seen at the 36th Durban International Film Festival DIFF is a quiet and intimate film focusing on a Chinese couple, Lu Yanshi played by Chen Daoming and Feng Wanyu superbly played by Gong Li who are forced to separate after their only daughter, an aspiring ballerina Dan Dan played by Zhang Huiwen reports her father to the Communist authorities and he in turns is sent away as a political prisoner.

After a disruptive farewell at the local train station, Lu Yanshi and Feng Wanyu do not see each other for years and when Yanshi returns to his home, he finds that his wife does not recognize him due to psychological amnesia caused by a traumatic event.

house_of_flying_daggers_ver2

After the flourish of earlier films like Raise the Red Lantern, The House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower Zhang Yimou rather chooses to focus on the broken relationship of a husband and wife whose love for each other is brutally torn apart by the restrictive society they live and as fate occurs, this love cannot be resurrected despite Lu Yanshi’s attempts at reconciliation and his own careful methods of reawakening his wife’s lost memory, mainly through the use of old photos and an abundance of letters.

At 109 minutes, Coming Home is a slightly drawn out film in Mandarin with English subtitles, which could have done with some editing, however the central narrative is held together by Gong Li’s brilliant portrayal of a woman whose own memory has betrayed her, leaving her bewildered and confused, yet always clinging to a hope that one day her family will be reconciled.

Unlike Zhang Yimou’s previous films such as The Flowers of War and Curse of the Golden Flower, Coming Home lacks flourish and spectacle but is beautifully filmed and held together by some magnificent acting especially by Gong Li, who does for Chinese cinema what Oscar winner Julianne Moore did for American cinema in Still Alice.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
March 2019
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie
    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” […]
    Dave McNary
  • MMA Alters Faces of Asian Sports Broadcasting
    Bruce Lee was ahead of the curve by about four decades when he predicted back in the early 1970s that combat sports would one day take the world by storm. Hong Kong’s favorite son had encouraged his own students to mix up the styles of martial arts they were being trained in — to combine kung fu […]
    carolehorst
  • Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner ‘Jiu Jitsu’
    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling […]
    Dave McNary
  • Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart
    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai […]
    carolehorst
  • Kit Harington on How ‘Game of Thrones’ Mirrors Real-World Politics
    In Variety‘s March 19 cover story, Kit Harington opens up about the final season of “Game of Thrones” and growing into adulthood as part of the biggest show on television. In a conversation in London in December, Harington opened up about the similarities between the series’ politics and our own. “I think it’s always been about […]
    danvariety
  • Article
    Over the past few years, several low-cost carriers have stepped up to offer competition and cheapest prices to customers looking to cut down their monthly bills. Tags: 2gmhass90