REVIEW: THE GRANDMASTER

48.2

CAST

Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Red Cliff)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Song Hye-kyo (Countdown)
Chang Chen (Parking)
Zhao Benshan (Getting Home)
Zhang Jin (IP Man 3)

Chen Chang in Yi dai zong shi (2013)The film narrates the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, beginning in the 1930s in Foshan and moving on to cover his flight to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the events leading up to his death. The movie begins with Ip Man reflecting on martial arts, and then cuts to a scene of a fight under the rain between Ip and a dozen combatants. Ip Man wins, and experiences flashbacks of his life, from his early training at the age of seven to his induction into martial arts by his master Chan Wah-shun, and his marriage to his wife Cheung Wing-sing.Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Ziyi Zhang in Yi dai zong shi (2013)Ip Man’s peaceful existence is threatened by the arrival of Gong Yutian, the Wudang Boxing martial arts grandmaster from northern China, who announces that he has already retired and has appointed Ma San as his heir in the North. He then concedes that the South should have its own heir. A flurry of discussions and fights erupt as various masters attempt to challenge Gong, but they are all barred by Ma San. As the Southern masters are deliberating on a representative, Gong Yutian’s daughter Gong Er arrives and she tries to convince her father not to continue the fight, as she feels they are all unworthy. Meanwhile, the Southern masters decide on Ip Man to represent them, and Ip proceeds to be tested by three Southern masters before he challenges Gong Yutian. However, the “fight” between Ip and Gong turns out to be actually an exchange of philosophical ideas. Gong declares Ip the winner and returns to northern China. However, Gong Er sets out to regain her family’s honour by challenging Ip Man, and they agree that if anything breaks, Ip loses. “Kung Fu is about precision”, so whoever breaks a piece of furniture during the fight will be the loser. An intense fight breaks out between Ip Man and Gong Er, which concludes with victory for Gong because Ip broke a step at the very end (albeit while ‘saving Gong from falling’). Ip and Gong then part on friendly terms, with Ip saying he wants a rematch.Tony Chiu-Wai Leung in Yi dai zong shi (2013)Ip Man and Gong Er keep in contact after parting ways by exchanging letters, and Ip intends to bring his family with him to northern China, but his plans are disrupted by the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. During the war, Ip Man and his family descend into poverty and he loses his two daughters due to starvation. In the meantime, in northern China, Ma San becomes a hanjian and ends up killing Gong Yutian. When Gong Er returns, she confronts her elders for forsaking her father but they tell her that her father’s final wish was for her to be happy and not to seek vengeance. Gong Er refuses to accept that, instead, she vows to never teach, marry or have children, and devotes her entire life for vengeance.Ziyi Zhang in Yi dai zong shi (2013)Ip Man moves to Hong Kong in the hope of starting a career as a martial arts teacher, but ends up facing all sorts of challenges because there were also numerous other martial arts masters. He defeats them soundly and earns a reputation. He meets Gong Er again on Chinese New Year’s Eve 1950 and asks her for a contest one more time while implying that she should start rebuilding her martial art school. But Gong Er refuses, stating that many martial arts disappeared in the course of history; and that hers would not be the only one. A flashback 10 years earlier shows a confrontation between Gong Er and Ma San at a train station on Chinese New Year’s Eve 1940, and Gong defeats Ma after a brutal and intense fight. However, Gong herself is heavily injured and loses her desire to use martial art.Chen Chang in Yi dai zong shi (2013)The film then fast-forwards to 1952, when Ip Man and Gong Er meet each other for the last time. Gong confesses to Ip that she has had romantic feelings for him right from the beginning. She dies shortly after. Ip explains in a voice over that in the fight with Ma San, Gong was injured so badly she turned to opium for the pain and this was her downfall. The final scenes offer a visual montage as Ip Man’s school flourishes, including a statement that Ip made Wing Chun popular worldwide and his most famous student was Bruce Lee. Off screen, it is stated that Ip Man died in 1972.The cinematography is sublime, each shot dazzles us with its perfection.The way Phillipe le Sourd photographs portraits is interesting, using very shallow focus with most of the screen dark.This builds a special intimacy with the characters and serves as a window into their noble souls.The background music is another Wong trademark and in this film too it amplifies and underscores the action with great sophistication. Shigeru Umebayashi is in good form here but he does not have the opportunities of In the Mood for Love kind of grandstanding.The Grandmaster is a film for every lover of cinema, not just for martial arts aficionados, and its a great way to discover the work of a Grandmaster of cinema who inspired the likes of Tarantino.Every artist is also a philosopher and so are Wong and Ip Man.

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REVIEW: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

CAST

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Jupiter Ascending)
David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher)
Daniel Brühl (Rush)
John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island)
Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
Aksel Hennie (Hercules)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Simon Pegg (Mission Possible: Rogue Nation)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a Girl)

 

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In the near future, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis. The collective space agencies of the world prepare to launch the Cloverfield Station for testing of the Shepard particle accelerator, which would provide Earth with infinite energy if it works, but pundits fear it will create the “Cloverfield Paradox”, opening portals to other dimensions and allow horrors from those to threaten Earth. Among the crew is Ava Hamilton, who frets about leaving her husband Michael, a doctor, for potentially many years. The two struggle with their relationship after losing their children to a house fire.John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)In orbit, the station crew fail to achieve success with Shepard for about two years but eventually achieve a seemingly-stable beam, but it then overloads and creates a power surge on the station. After restoring basic power, they find Earth has vanished from their view, along with the gyroscope that aids in navigation. As the crew work to repair the ship, strange events begin to occur. They rescue a woman, Jensen, fused with wires behind a panel. Volkov fears something crawling beneath his skin before he is compelled to craft a gun; before he can threaten the crew, his body convulses and ruptures, revealing the station’s colony of worms within him. Mundy’s arm gets pulled into a wall, and then severed clean off; they later find the arm moving on its own volition, and when they recognize that it is try to write something, they are led to dissect Volkov’s body and locate the missing gyroscope. They quickly discover Earth and realign their communications, but pick up mistaken transmissions that state that Cloverfield Station had been destroyed and fallen to Earth.Chris O'Dowd in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)They speak to Jensen and discover they are in an alternate dimension. In this one, Hamilton’s children had not died and she stayed on Earth as a civilian engineer, while Jensen had replaced Tam as the station’s engineer. They suspect that the Shepard device caused them to move into the new dimension, and reactivating Shepard will reverse that; Tam works out a means to then make Shepard work properly, but she is killed in a freak accident. The crew start working on repairs, while Hamilton decides to return with Jensen to Earth to be with her kids. As they prepare, Mundy is killed in an explosion caused by a strange magnetic field, which nearly tears the station in half. The station commander Kiel sacrifices himself to disengage a wildly-spinning accelerator ring from the station before it is destroyed, leaving Hamilton in charge.Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)Meanwhile, on Earth, Michael wakes up to discover a number of strange events happening across the planet, including witnessing the silhouette of a giant monster. On his way to offer his assistance at the local hospital, he stops to help a young girl named Molly. After learning that the hospital has been destroyed, he takes Molly to an underground shelter belonging to a friend and tends to her wounds.Daniel Brühl and Ziyi Zhang in The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)With Shepard ready to activate, Hamilton and Jensen prepare to leave, but Jensen suddenly knocks her out, uses the gun Volkov made to kill Monk and wound Schmidt, and insists that the station must stay in this dimension so they have access to the Shepard device. Regaining consciousness, Hamilton overpowers Jensen for the gun and shoots out a window, ejecting Jensen into space. Hamilton decides to return to their dimension with Schimdt, but makes a recording to herself in the alternate dimension, giving her the plans for the Shepard device, and stressing the importance of her family. Hamilton and Schimdt successfully reverse the dimension shift, and then make Tam’s modifications to engage Shepard properly to provide the energy source. The two, after reporting in, are then forced to evacuate, since they had sacrificed their life support systems to make the return trip to their dimension. As the evacuation shuttle breaks through the earth’s atmosphere, a giant monster comes up roaring through the clouds.Cloverfield is becoming a great outlet to tell really good Sci-Fi stories. Some of the best we have seen in a long time. Paradox adds to the mythos while also being its own movie. I can see from many of the reviews that this is not for everyone, I get that, but you can’t come in to these movies looking for answers, that’s not how the Cloverfield movies work. They present themselves and leave us to draw conclusions based on what we witnessed. An excellent addition to the Cloverfield franchise.

 

REVIEW: MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

CAST

Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Gong Li (Hannibal Rising)
Samantha Futerman (21 & Over)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Elizabeth Sung (Death Ring)
Kaori Momoi (Ghost In The Shell)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Karl Yuen (Arrow)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Showdown In Little Tokyo)
Minae Noji  (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Julia Ling (Chuck)

Chiyo Sakamoto (Suzuka Ohgo), a young girl from a poverty stricken fishing village, is sold along with her older sister Satsu (Samantha Futerman) into a life of servitude by her aging father (Mako). Chiyo is taken in by Mrs. Kayoko Nitta (Kaori Momoi), the Mother (proprietress) of a geisha house in Gion, one of the most prominent geisha districts in Kyoto, whereas Satsu is sold to a prostitution brothel. At the okiya, Chiyo meets another young girl named Pumpkin (Zoe Weizenbaum), the cranky Granny (Kotoko Kawamura), and the okiya’s only working geisha, Hatsumomo (Gong Li) who is famous for her breathtaking beauty. Chiyo soon discovers Hatsumomo is secretly a cruel and jealous woman that views Chiyo as a potential rival due to her striking bluish-gray eyes along with being a change in Mother’s future financial dependence. Hatsumomo then goes out of her way to deliberately make Chiyo’s new life miserable by having her take the blame for everything and intentionally withholding information to her sister’s whereabouts in the pleasure district. However, Auntie (Tsai Chin) is aware of this and warns Chiyo against trusting and angering Hatsumomo, given her history with the ill-manner geisha.Chiyo tracks down Satsu and makes plans to run away together. However, upon returning to the okiya she discovers Hatsumomo with her boyfriend, Koichi (Karl Yune), which is against the rules of the Geisha lifestyle. When they are caught, Hatsumomo attempts to twist the situation by accusing Chiyo of stealing. Chiyo denies this and informs Mother of what she saw in the shed. As a result, everyone is barred from leaving the okiya at night except to attend work engagements and this further increases Hatsumomo’s anger towards Chiyo. On the night of their planned escape, Chiyo attempts to sneak out but falls off the rooftop and is seriously injured. As punishment for dishonoring the okiya, Mother tells Chiyo that she won’t invest any more money in her geisha training. She also informs Chiyo that both her parents (Mako and Elizabeth Sung) are dead. Chiyo misses her chance to flee and never sees Satsu again. She is also demoted from geisha training to working as a slave to pay off her increasing debts to Mother.One day, while crying on a riverbank, Chiyo is noticed by the Chairman (Ken Watanabe) and his geisha companions. He buys her a shaved ice dessert and gives her his handkerchief with some money in it. Inspired by his act of kindness, Chiyo resolves to become a geisha so that she may one day become a part of the Chairman’s life.Several years later, Pumpkin (Youki Kudoh) has begun her training as a maiko under Hatsumomo’s tutelage and Chiyo (Zhang Ziyi) is envious of it as she remains a maid under Mother. She is unexpectedly taken under the wing of Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), one of Gion’s most successful geisha and long time rival of Hatsumomo’s. Although initially reluctant, Mother is persuaded by Mameha to allow Chiyo to train as a geisha. Under Mameha’s tutelage, Chiyo becomes a maiko and takes the name of Sayuri. She grows in popularity and Hatsumomo grows desperate that she tries to ruin Sayuri’s reputation. Predicting this, Mamaeha takes her to a sumo wrestling match where Sayuri reintroduced to the Chairman, who seems unaware of her previous identity as Chiyo, as well as his business associate Nobu Toshikazu (Kōji Yakusho), who takes a liking to her and of whom Hatsumomo finds repulsive. Meanwhile, Mameha orchestrates a bidding war for Sayuri’s mizuage between two men: Nobu and Dr. Crab (Randall Duk Kim), which will make her a full geisha. Upon learning what Mameha has planned, Hatsumomo spreads cruel rumors that Sayuri had been deflowered to Dr. Crab. However, Sayuri is named the lead dancer for a popular performance, which angers Hatsumomo as she was hoping for Pumpkin to be named the lead.At the performance, she attracts the attention of many men, including the Baron (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) (Mameha’s danna), with her performance. When Dr. Crab congratulates Sayuri, she secretly convinces him to listen to a different opinion before taking the word of someone who lies. The Baron invites Sayuri to his estate for a sakura-viewing party, which Mameha is reluctant to let Sayuri attend but lets her go anyway. When the Baron presents a kimono to Sayuri in private at the party, he undresses her against her will in order to “take a look”, but does not go any further.Sayuri’s mizuage is won with a record-breaking bid of fifteen thousand yen. Mother, seeing Sayuri as a financial asset, names her as her adopted daughter and heiress to the okiya. This crushes Pumpkin, who was hoping that she would get adopted so she could have security in her old age, and enrages Hatsumomo. She is then told by Mother that she must give up her spacious room to Sayuri, which further outrages Hatsumomo who tried to remind her of her previous financial contribution. Mameha later tells Sayuri that the bid had ended up a contest between Dr. Crab and the Baron, Nobu having refused to partake in the bidding because it was against his principles. Mameha let it go to Dr. Crab because of her romantic feelings for the Baron, despite his bid being even higher. When returning home from the mizuage ceremony, Sayuri finds a drunken Hatsumomo in her room, where she has found the Chairman’s handkerchief. A fight ensues, during which a gas lantern is knocked over and ignites a fire and the okiya is partially destroyed by the flames. Hatsumomo is then kicked out of the okiya by Mother, her belongings given to Sayuri, and she is banished from Gion with her fate left unknown.Sayuri’s successful career is cut short by the outbreak of World War II. Sayuri and Mameha are separated, with Sayuri going to the hills to work for a kimono maker, an old friend of Nobu’s and Mameha going to a physician, the Chairman’s old friend. After the war, Sayuri is reunited with Nobu who needs her help with impressing an American Colonel (Ted Levine) who has the power to approve funding for the Chairman’s firm. Sayuri reunites with Mameha, who now makes a living renting rooms for the poor. Although she is reluctant to return to the geisha lifestyle after what she’s been through, she agrees to help impress Derricks. Sayuri is reacquainted with Pumpkin, who is now a flirty escort. Sayuri goes on a trip with Nobu, the Chairman, Mameha, Pumpkin, and the Americans to the Amami Islands.At Amami, the Colonel propositions Sayuri, but is rejected. Nobu witnesses the incident and confronts Sayuri. He finally confesses his feelings, telling her that he wants to become her danna. Knowing that entering into a relationship with Nobu will destroy any chance of her being with the Chairman, Sayuri is distraught and devises a plan. Mameha catches on to it and warns her against it because of the kindness Nobu shown her. She wants Sayuri to accept him as her danna and not end up like Hatsumomo did. She refuses and enlists Pumpkin’s help to have Nobu catch her seemingly being intimate with the Colonel. However, because of her secret resentment of Sayuri, Pumpkin brings the Chairman instead, having full knowledge of Sayuri’s feelings towards him. When Sayuri confronts her, Pumpkin coldly tells her that she did a lot of favors for her in the past and she stole her chances of being adopted by Mother. She hoped by having the Chairman see her with Derricks, he would be disgusted by Sayuri’s behavior and she would have to accept Nobu as her danna.A few days later, after returning to Gion, Sayuri receives a call to go to the teahouse. Sayuri expects to see Nobu, but instead the Chairman comes and finally reveals to her that he has known all along that she was the girl at the riverbank. He tells her that he had told Nobu about the affair after confronting Pumpkin for her behavior, effectively destroying Nobu’s affections for Sayuri and his desire to be her danna. He also reveals that he was responsible for sending Mameha to her so that she could fulfill her dreams of becoming a geisha. Sayuri finally reveals her love to the Chairman, and the film ends with their loving embrace and kiss and a stroll through the garden.

Memoirs of a Geisha does not submit all its secrets on first viewing; there are many layers of meaning and mystery to be seen again and again.

 

REVIEW: THE FOUNDING OF A REPUBLIC

CAST

Jet Li (The One)
Jackie Chan (Dragonm Blade)
Donnie Yen (Rogue One)
Zhang Guoli (Back to 1942)
Tang Guoqiang (Cairo Declaration)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Vivian Wu (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Xu Qing (Life on A String)
Andy Lau (Shanghai 13)

In 1945 after the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong and members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) travel to Chongqing for a meeting with Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang (KMT). With help from the China Democratic League, the Double Tenth Agreement is signed between the KMT and CPC, with both sides agreeing to stop the civil war and to establish a multi-party government in China.
111The following year, Chiang Kai-shek calls for a National Assembly in Nanjing and is elected as President of the Republic of China (ROC). At the same time, the peace negotiations between the CPC and KMT fail and the civil war continues. Other political figures such as Zhang Lan, Soong Ching-ling and Li Jishen, support the CPC because they oppose Chiang’s government, even though they are in non-battleground areas such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.
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In May 1948, the CPC declares the opening of a “War of Liberation” against Chiang’s ROC government, with many other political parties responding to the call and taking the CPC’s side. The Red Army scores victories against the NRA in subsequent battles and eventually Chiang’s forces retreat to Taiwan in December 1949. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaims the People’s Republic of China with its capital at Beijing, marking the start of a new era for China.firestarterApart from the fact the cover makes you think that Jackie Chan and co are the stars, it is a fantastic historic film… about the battle for leadership of china after WW2…the Acting is brilliant so are the effects…well worth watching.

 

REVIEW: HERO

CAST

Jet Li (The One)
Tony Leung (Hard Boiled)
Maggie Cheung (2046)
Chen Daoming (Coming Home)
Donnie Yen (Highlander: Endgame)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)

In ancient China during the Warring States period, Nameless, a Qin prefect, arrives at the Qin capital city to meet the king of Qin, who had survived an attempt on his life by the assassins Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. As a result, the king has implemented extreme security measures: no visitors are to approach the king within 100 paces. Nameless claims that he has slain the three assassins and he displays their weapons before the king, who allows the former to approach and tell him his story. Nameless recounts first killing Long Sky, before traveling to meet Flying Snow and Broken Sword, who had taken refuge at a calligraphy school in the Zhao state. He tells Sword that he is there to commission a calligraphy scroll with the character for “Sword” (劍), secretly seeking to learn Sword’s skill through his calligraphy. Nameless also learns that Snow and Sword, who are lovers, had gradually grown distant. Once the scroll is complete, Nameless reveals his identity and challenges both Snow and Sword to a duel the next day. Sword, who knows that the scroll has revealed his weaknesses to Nameless, makes love to his pupil Moon, but is seen by Snow. In revenge, Snow kills Sword, followed by Moon when she attempted to seek revenge for her master. The next day, Nameless kills the emotionally unstable Snow before the Qin army, and claims her sword. As the tale concludes, the king expresses disbelief and accuses Nameless of staging the duels with the assassins, as in the previous assassination attempt he had perceived Sword as an honourable man who would not stoop so low as to cheat on Snow. The king then suggests that what really happened was that the assassins volunteered their lives so that Nameless could gain the king’s trust, which would allow Nameless to get close enough to the king to kill him. He then narrates his guess at what really happened.
In the king’s hypothetical version of the story Nameless had sought out Snow and Sword after staging the battle with Sky, telling them that he had acquired a special technique that would allow him to kill any target that is within 10 paces. Nameless explains that he can use this technique to kill the king, but to get close enough he must present Snow’s and Sword’s weapons to the king. He further explains that he only needs to kill one of them in public to “prove” that he has killed both of them. Snow and Sword argue over who should be the one to die, which results in a short fight in which Snow is quicker and manages to injure Sword. Snow then proceeds to meet Nameless before the Qin army while Sword, still recovering from his wound, watches helplessly as Snow is defeated. Moon then gives Nameless her master’s sword, telling him that the swords of Snow and Sword should remain together in death as they had in life.
Nameless admits that he does indeed possess the special technique the king alluded to. However he states that the King had underestimated Sword, and tells the true story. Nameless says that the special technique, while deadly, can also be used to deal a seemingly-fatal blow that nonetheless misses all the victim’s vital organs. He had used this technique on Sky, and now asked Snow and Sword to cooperate by faking a duel with him as well. He demonstrates the technique by showing that it is highly accurate as well as deadly. Snow agrees to the plan, but Sword refuses. Snow angrily accuses Sword of ruining the opportunity they had three years ago, when they had broken into the Qin palace yet Sword had refused to kill the king. She then attacks Sword, and manages to wound him with Nameless’s help. The next day, Nameless “kills” Snow in front of the Qin army. Sword sends Nameless off to the Qin capital, writing the words Tianxia in the sand before leaving. Sword had not killed the king 3 years ago because he desired a unified, peaceful state, and only the king of Qin could achieve that vision.
The king, touched by the tale and by Sword’s understanding of his dream to unify China, ceases to fear Nameless. He tosses his sword to Nameless and examines the scroll drawn by Sword. The king understands that it describes the ideal warrior, who, paradoxically, should have no desire to kill. When Nameless realizes the wisdom of these words, he abandons his mission and spares the king. When Snow learns that Sword had convinced Nameless to forgo the assassination, she furiously attacks Sword and unintentionally kills him when he chooses not to defend himself so that she would understand his feelings for her. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Snow commits suicide. Urged by his court, the king reluctantly orders Nameless to be executed at the Qin palace for his assassination attempt. He understands that in order to unify the nation, he must enforce the law and use Nameless as an example. As the film ends, Nameless receives a hero’s funeral and a closing text identifies the king as Qin Shi Huang.

Hero is undoubtedly a most beautiful and awe inspiring film. What it lacks in plot substance, it makes up for with structure and script. It elaborates on the ground work created by ‘Crouching Tiger’ and is an experience that I would encourage you to seek out, as long as you are willing to submit to the film and let it guide you through its world on its own terms.

REVIEW: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

CAST

Chow Yun-Fat (Bulletproof Monk)
Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Chang Chen (Red Cliff)
Cheng Pei-pei (Brothers Five)
Sihung Lung (The Touch)

The film is set in the Qing Dynasty during the 43rd year (1779) of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is an accomplished Wudang swordsman and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) is a female warrior and professional body guard. The death of Mu Bai’s closest friend and fiancée to Shu Lien complicate these characters’ feelings for one another. They are reconnected when Mu Bai , after choosing to relinquish the warrior lifestyle, asks Shu Lien to gift his sword “Green Destiny” to their friend Sir Te (Sihung Lung) in Beijing. Long ago, Mu Bai’s master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills.
One evening, a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te’s estate and steals the sword. Mu Bai and Shu Lien trace the theft to Governor Yu’s compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen’s governess for many years. Mu Bai makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai (Wang Deming), a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter May (Li Li), who have come to Peking in pursuit of Fox. Fox challenges the pair and Sir Te’s servant Master Bo (Gao Xi’an) to a showdown that night. Following a protracted battle, the group is on the verge of defeat when Mu Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Fox. Before Mu Bai can kill Fox, the masked thief reappears and partners with Fox to fight. Fox resumes the fight and kills Tsai before fleeing with the thief (who is revealed to be Fox’s protégé, Jen). After seeing Jen fight Mu Bai, Fox realizes Jen had been secretly studying the Wudang manual and has surpassed her in combative skills.
At night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen’s bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo and his bandits had raided Jen’s caravan and Lo had stolen her comb. She chased after him, following him to his desert cave seemingly in a quest to get her comb back. However, the pair soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man’s heart was pure, he did not die. Lo came to Peking to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him. Later, Lo interrupts Jen’s wedding procession, begging her to come away with him. Nearby, Shu Lien and Mu Bai convince Lo to wait for Jen at Mount Wudang, where he will be safe from Jen’s family, who are furious with him. Jen runs away from her husband on the wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. Disguised in male clothing, she is accosted at an inn by a large group of warriors; armed with the Green Destiny and her own superior combat skills, she emerges victorious.
Jen visits Shu Lien, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Mount Wudang. After an angry dispute, the two women engage in a duel. Shu Lien is the superior fighter, but Jen wields the Green Destiny: the sword destroys each weapon that Shu Lien wields, until Shu Lien finally manages to defeat Jen with a broken sword. When Shu Lien shows mercy and lowers the sword, Jen injures Shu Lien’s arm. Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. Following a duel where Mu Bai regains possession of the Green Destiny, he decides to throw the sword over a waterfall. In pursuit, Jen dives into an adjoining river to retrieve the sword and is then rescued by Fox. Fox puts Jen into a drugged sleep and places her in a cavern; Mu Bai and Shu Lien discover her there. Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master’s death by mortally wounding Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen because she was furious that Jen had hid the secrets of Wudang’s far superior fighting techniques from her.
As Jen exits to gather up an antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu Bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu Lien. He dies in her arms as Jen returns, too late to save him. The Green Destiny is returned to Sir Te. Jen later goes to Mount Wudang and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies and wishes for them to be together again; back in the desert. Jen then suddenly leaps over the side of the mountain.Beautiful cinematography, an amazing soundtrack, moving performances from the whole castand some of the most breathtaking fight-scenes ever filmed. The first fight between Jen and Shu-Lien – the roof-type scene – is mesmerising. A movie classic for all ages

REVIEW: HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS

CAST

Andy Lau (Internal Affairs)
Zhang Ziyi (Hero)
Takeshi Kaneshiro (The Warlords)
Dandan Song (I Love My Family)

In AD 859, as the Tang Dynasty declines, a number of rebel groups are established, the largest of which is the House of Flying Daggers, based in Fengtian, who battle the corrupt government that oppresses the people. Its members steal from the rich and give to the poor, gaining the support of the locals. Two police officers, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) – who are best friends – are ordered to kill the leader of the group within ten days, a task that appears to be impossible as no-one knows who the leader of the House of the Flying Daggers is.

To accomplish this, Leo arrests Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a blind dancer who is suspected of being the previous leader’s daughter. Jin proceeds to assault the jail and set Mei free, pretending that he is a rebel sympathizer, an act which gains Mei’s trust. As Mei and Jin travel to the Flying Dagger headquarters, Leo trails behind with reinforcements. Unfortunately, Mei and Jin fall in love.
To make the deception more realistic, Leo and his men pretend to ambush the pair. Later, though, they are ambushed for real by a different group. At a secret meeting, Leo explains that the military has gotten involved and wants Jin and Mei dead. A few days later, Jin and Mei are ambushed again, but they are saved by the House of Flying Daggers and taken to their headquarters. At this point, it is revealed that Mei isn’t really blind, and furthermore, that she is engaged to Leo, who has secretly been a Flying Dagger member. The Flying Daggers are not afraid of the military, but rather, they are looking forward to an open battle. A heartbroken Leo tells Mei that he waited for her for three years since he went undercover to infiltrate the police, and asks how she could fall in love with Jin after only three days; only to be informed by Mei that she has her heart set on Jin.

Mei, however, cannot bring herself to love Leo, since she now loves Jin. Leo tries to rape Mei but Mei’s superior throws a dagger into Leo’s back. Shortly after, Mei is told to execute Jin for being a police officer. She frees him instead, but refuses to desert the House so that she could join him. Half an hour later, Mei suddenly changes her mind and rides after Jin, but is ambushed by Leo, who casts two daggers at her. Mei tosses her sword, managing to deflect one of them while the other pierces her breast. At this point, Jin discovers Leo and the two of them fight, but their skills are too evenly matched with neither gaining an advantage as they bloodily battle one another over the course of a raging blizzard that suddenly falls upon them. Meanwhile, the House gets assaulted by the military.

Finally, Leo pulls the dagger out of his back and threatens to throw it at Jin. Mei threatens to pull the dagger out of her breast and throw it at Leo, which would cause her to die from blood loss, but Jin begs her to protect her own life. After waiting for several tense moments, Leo, feeling suicidal, decides to pretend to throw his dagger and be killed. To his great surprise, Mei attempts to use her own dagger to intercept Leo’s dagger in flight. The result of all this is that neither Leo nor Jin die, but only Mei. In the end, Leo stumbles away in guilt while Jin cries over Mei’s dead body, singing a song praising her as a “rare beauty”, the likes of which he will never see again. The question of whether the House won against the military is left ambiguous.There may be some unanswered questions at the end of the movie and yet I’d watch this film over and over again just to witness the use of costumes, the martial arts skill and how they blend to make a very palatable story. As can be the case in Asian films, like the recent hit “Hero”, the costumes and the use of color are important characters all by themselves. So many elements come together beautifully that what’s also ironic is the that film could easily be a stage play. I enjoyed this immensely. Just awe-inspiring!