Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Ying xiong, China, 2002)

It is not possible to debate the incredible beauty of this film. It is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. Scene follows scene of awesome beauty, color, movement, incredible landscapes. It is not possible to debate the grandeur of it, either. There are scenes with many thousands, and not all of it is a CGI crowd, though some of it is certainly augmented that way. It is not possible to fault the … choreography, is the only good word for it. People fly through the air, climb walls, walk on water, all in balletic splendor. I’m sure every martial arts fan who sees it will leave in a state of ecstasy.

I’m not a martial arts fan. To me, it’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying crap. A genius director like Quentin Tarantino and, here, Yimou Zhang, can keep me watching it right to the end … but I get up feeling I’ve just watched a lot of nothing much. There is almost no blood in this movie, unlike Kill Bill, but it is just too much to swallow. I try to look on the story and the action as mythic, like some of the best American westerns where people shoot better than anybody can really shoot, but it doesn’t work. Watching people run on water is pretty and interesting, but just doesn’t do it for me. There is a cultural thing at work here that I just don’t get. I don’t understand the connection between swordsmanship and calligraphy, don’t see the point of a roomful of calligraphers sitting and working as a solid wall of arrows kill them.

Frankly, I don’t understand any of it. If you do, don’t try to explain it to me. Just enjoy yourself.