Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A night at the ballet.

I give.
I can't take any more exquisitely crafted, perfectly art-directed, balletic martial arts movies. Hero tested my patience enough (although that had more to do with its alarming "Facism rules!" agenda). This time 'round, I made it thirty minutes into Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers before turning off the screener. (Yimou, by the way, is the one responsible for Hero.) The composition is lovely and Zhang Ziyi is one of the most attractive actresses currently working; In the thirty minutes I saw, there were two long traditional dance sequences that were well executed and a fight sequence that was as technically proficient as anything in Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But it was all so painfully dry and dull. And, like The Life Aquatic, every shot is a sumptuous, meticulously laid out tableau. For Christ's sake, can't we breath a little life and/or spontaneity into these things? I like my epic, richly art-directed films to be a little jagged, a little rough (see also: The Aviator, Boogie Nights, etc).
As Zhang Ziyi was performing her endless dances, I started to long for the ballet sequences in Robert Altman's The Company. Altman shoots them in long, fluid takes but isn't scared to occasionally jolt the audience with a jump cut or an unexpected insert. The sequences are elegant and refined... But edgey.
I suppose I might try to watched the rest of Daggers, catch Ms. Zhang dicing raindrops, or whatever it is she does for the rest of the movie. But I imagine that I'll just be wishing I had a copy of The Company. I guess it's my Western Imperialism shining through yet again.


At 1:05 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

I totally love Orientalism. I don't know what you're talking about. Actually, I do. Isn't it sort of queasy and grody that the only Chinese films that manage to go big in America are martial arts movies? Any talented Chinese actor had better be able to do full double lay out back flips that end in uppercuts or they have no Western appeal. Japanese horror movies manage to cross over too -- but that's because they're so fucking good and American horror movies aren't. Plus, we tend to take the Japanese a little more seriously (due mainly to the talents of Kurosawa and Ozu) but the poor Chinese. It's all kung-fu and chop socky and little dances. And no gay sex. Booooo.

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