More Romance Than 'Hero' and More Beauty of Zhang Ziyi
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 10/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Soon following the success of 'Hero,' director Yimou Zhang made another film featuring beautiful Zhang Ziyi. One of the good news for Zhang Ziyi fans (including me) is that 'House of Flying Daggers' features her almost all through the film. And this time director's stress is clearly given to the romantic side of the story -- and as if to match his intention, 'House' looks more beautiful, colorful, and gorgeous, than 'Hero.' And there are actions, and some of them are quite unique.
The film is set in 859 AD, last days of the now corrupt Tang Dynasty in China. One underground sect called House of Flying Daggers are openly challenging the authority of the government, and to crush these rebels, two officers Jin -- also known 'The Wind' (Takeshi Kaneshiro, 'Chunking Express') and Leo (Andy Lau, 'Infernal Affairs') think of a good plan.
Jin goes to meet a blind courtesan Mei (Zhang Ziyi), who is suspected to be connected with the secret clan, and he gains the confidence of this beautiful dancer by some tricks -- tricks meaning 'love.' Make her love you, and you get her secret. Hopefully she will lead Jin to the hiding place of the 'House of Flying Daggers,' but before the plan starts, Leo warns Jin: 'Don't fall in love for real.' But who can resist Mei's beauty? Or Zhang Ziyi's for that matter?
The rest of the story is very melodramatic, and the film sometimes needs a good amount of suspension of disbelief (especially for Western audiences, I'm afraid). But, though melodramatic, it is aptly so, as this is basically about a romance, or a love story. Those who love the romantic mood in films would understand what I say. It's all about the tension and mood, and 'House' has lots of them.
Actions are done by Tony Ching Siu-Tung, whose CV includes the action director of 'A Chinese Ghost Story.' He gives superb martial arts actions here again, without using too much of now-too-trendy wire actions. As the film title shows, there are some effectively shot scenes of 'flying daggers' which, with a good use of CGIs, gives a few of thrilling moments. And like I said before, the battles in the midst of a deep bamboo forest are not to be missed, if you are a real Hong-Kong film fan.
Costumes are provided by Emi Wada (as in 'Hero'), whose colorful dresses are just wonderful. Particlularly those long-sleeved dancing costumes for Zhang Ziyi not merely enhance the exotic beauty of the dancer, but things to be treasured on their own merit. And Kathleen Battle sings the theme song at the end of the film.
But first and foremost, to me, the film is made for Zhang Ziyi. Did I say she is beautiful? She is, and breathtakingly so, when her character betrays her hidden emotions before the camera. And sometimes the film reveals the character's very sensual side -- I say, for a Chinese film, of course, but it was a little surprising.
Of course, top-credited Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro are the stars, and they are very good. The film is always beautiful to see, from the first to the end (the snow field was shot in Ukraine). And if you're a fan of Zhang Ziyi, this one is not to be missed for it's not too much to say that it belongs to her."
If you have the DVD, don't bother with the Blu-Ray
Stephen Lerch | Elkton, MD United States | 11/29/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Since none of the other reviews for this movie seem to focus on the Blu-Ray disc, I decided I'll throw my $.02 in.
The movie is a very good, well told story. The other reviews tell you that. What they don't tell you is that the Blu-Ray version is a waste of money.
The first issue I had when playing the movie was the menu. Something told me that when the menu come on and it looked no better than DVD that something was amiss. I had hoped it was just the menu. I was wrong.
I then started the movie up with subtitles and when the actual movie started I raised my hand to my head and began to scratch it. The video looked HORRIBLE. Pixelated and blurry and lacking detail.
I paused the movie just before the drum scene. I then put the DVD into my Oppo 971 DVD player, switched the input on my TV to the DVD player and skipped to the same scene on the DVD. I was amazed. The DVD upconverted to 720p using the Oppo 971 looked BETTER than the 1080p image coming from the PS3 through HDMI! The only difference is that the PS3's image is a bit brighter. This may be because I haven't calibrated the color for the HDMI input and not a true representation of the transfer.
The sound is really good, but not a whole lot better than the DVD. It certainly isn't worth the price to upgrade to Blu-Ray when the sound nearly imperceptibly changes and the video looks this bad.
Looking at reviews on-line for the disc and given they were giving the movie decent video ratings, I thought it may be a problem with my setup, so I called Sony's PS3 support line and basically was told that as long as my other movies looked good (Corpse Bride looks simply stunning in Blu-Ray) that it was likely the way the movie was authored. Pretty sad that Sony, who are the biggest backers of the format, can't even author a movie properly. I have since learned from sources other than people trying to justify the expense of their $1000 players that HoFD is widely regarded as Sony's most poorly authored Blu-Ray title. Part of the issue may also be that Sony has an aversion to VC-1 (which is supported by Microsoft) and instead focuses on using MPEG-2 to encode the video. Talledega Nights also uses MPEG-2 but looks light years beyond HoFD.
Do yourself a favor if you want to purchase this on Blu-Ray; save yourself some money and buy the DVD version instead. The content doesn't change and it honestly looks better than the Blu-Ray disc. If you want something to show off the clarity of Blu-Ray, pick up Corpse Bride."
A necessary supplement to Hero
blue beast | Central New York, USA | 01/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you have not seen Hero, HOFD stands on its own for its gorgeous art direction alone. If you have seen Hero, you must see HOFD, because HOFD is a perfect contrast to Hero; "Hero" cannot be complete without HOFD. Both films are about sacrifice. So what set them apart?
While the message in "Hero" can be interpreted as "the greater goods outweigh the individual needs", the message in HOFD can be deciphered as "the individual needs outweigh the greater goods".
In "Hero", Nameless and Broken Sword gave up their plan to assassinate the emperor (thus giving up not only their desire to avenge personal hatred but also their individual happiness) because they realized that the power of the emperor might be the best solution to end the dreadful pains and suffers resulting from the a tangle of warring states.
In HOFD, Mei and Jin eventually chose to give up their mission to serve their respective political entity and instead, pursue their individual happiness and freedom.
In both movies, the outcomes are the same. No matter choosing the greater goods or individual needs ahead of everything, the individual cannot escape from suffering. In "hero", sacrifice of the individual dreams leads to the broken hearts. In HOFD, sacrifice of the greater goods leads to amplify the conflict of individual emotions (e.g., rejection and jealousy). At the end, the individuals still suffer and death becomes the best way to free it all.
While Yimou Zhang was criticized for the communism dogma in Hero (the importance of the greater good over the individual freedom), HOFD is his brilliant effort to silence the critics. HOFD manifests the unspoken (or relatively hidden) messages of Hero: the individuals' emotional baggage could outweigh everything after all. Humans are just humans. They suffer and search for ways to alleviate their suffering. And Zhang sympathizes with both forms of sufferings. "
Everything to look for in a great movie.
Derrick G. Tucker | In your mind | 01/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some people call this movie a 'bad kung-fu flick', one person in particular who posted their review on this movie earlier. I say their wrong. Way wrong. This movie wasn't created to be a world class kung fu flick, but rather to satisfy the desires of the followers of the newest type of motion picture: visual poetry.
This movie relates to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and I'm sure you can figure out why without even watching it. The visuals are ASTOUNDING and the acting is far from weak. It even features cast members who were in Hero and CTHD.
The music intertwines with the fight scenes to create a breathtaking experience that you couldn't even imagine reading this review. This is one of those movies where 'words can't describe the beauty'. Do yourself a favor and buy this movie (or rent it, if you are one of THOSE people)."
Flying deep into my heart.
martin j. | Bridgeport, CT | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With visuals adorned by nature's beauty and a story as passionate as the human spirit, time will give House of Flying Daggers the great appreciation it deserves.
I just saw the movie last night after purchasing the soundtrack, out of curiosity, the week before. (I, finally, went to get the one for Hero and saw the one for this nearby.) I became familiar with the music first, and then I surfed the Web for movie reviews and viewer commentary. Unfortunately, I encountered many negative interpretations of the film's story, action, acting, direction etc. After seeing the movie, I realized that the same elements which were criticized in this film were celebrated when presented within more "conventional" productions.
As wisely pointed out by a reviewer on another website, the tale is from the tragic tradition of storytelling. Similarly, the exquisitely choreographed action sequences and the breathtaking cinematography are based in artistry - not reality. Although the plot - which wasn't that logic-defying (especially, when compared to those of Star Wars and The Matrix) - revolved around issues that may feel foreign to some, the drama's emotional core resonated with the most fundamental of human longings: The need for a life of freedom and the yearning for love without fear."