Part 2 of our report on the 2007 Subway Cinema New York Asian Film Festival, which starts this weekend:
The Banquet is a lugubrious tale of palace intrigue from Mainland China starring Zhang Ziyi. Clearly pitched at the international arthouse audience, the film is ostensibly a pseudo-Shakespearean period piece concerning a struggle for power following the death of the Emperor among the late Emperor’s lover, brother, general, and others. However, the film is far more concerned with lavish set design than it is with plot mechanics or characterization. To be fair, though, the set design is pretty amazing; nearly every scene takes place in elaborate palace rooms filled with unusual statues and other odd details which bring to mind the work of Matthew Barney.
While The Banquet boasts fight choreography by Yuen Wo Ping, the film has an extremely ponderous tone and is by no means an action film. Moreover, the few fight scenes that are present in the film are far from Yuen’s best work, as The Banquet continues the questionable trend begun by the Korean film The Duelist of self-consciously staging fight scenes so that they resemble dance performances. Overall, The Banquet is not our most highly recommended of the films playing at the NYAFF, but it is quite a spectacle and should look breathtaking on the IFC Center’s big screen.
There is no need to say much about Hard Boiled – if you haven’t already seen it, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past 15 years. I may prefer The Killer, but Hard Boiled is undeniably the ultimate distillation of John Woo’s heroic bloodshed gunplay films - for sheer mayhem and violence, it can’t be beat. From the indelible image of Chow Yun-fat caked in white flour and splattered with his adversary’s blood, to the endless hospital shootout/massacre, Hard Boiled rarely ever lets up.
Instead of just praising the action, which has been done to death, I’ll just take this moment to point out how impressive the cast is. There’s Chow Yun-fat, of course, in a career-defining role, but there’s also Tony Leung, one of this generation’s greatest actors, as his hitman nemesis, and Anthony Wong as the incredibly hateful villain. Not to mention Kuo Chui (aka Philip Kwok aka Lizard Venom) as one-man killing machine Mad Dog.
Like I said, you’ve almost certainly seen this one before. Still, how often have you seen it on the big screen? Get out there, and experience what made Hong Kong king!
Filed under: Movie News and Movie News: Hong Kong and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Hong Kong and Contributors: David and Film Festivals: News and People: John Woo and People: Kuo Cheh (5 Venoms) and People: Zhang Ziyi and Movie News: China and People: Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Contributors: Jeff and People: Chow Yun-fat and Film Festivals: New York Asian Film Festival 2007 and Movie Reviews: Capsule Reviews and Movie Reviews: China