"Red Cliff" by John Woo

Old Nov 19th, 2009, 08:52 AM
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"Red Cliff" by John Woo

(If you have little interest for chinese history or culture, no need to read further)

Went to see the "Red Cliff" directed by John Woo. Movie was based on historical happenings at the end of the Han Dynasty 2000 years ago, depicting a greedy Prime Minister set on eliminating the southern warlords to gain more power, and the events leading up to the final battle at the Red Cliff (Chibi). It is epic drama coupled with massive battles with heavy casualties on land and water.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 09:16 AM
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I'm not sure what this has to do with travel, but while the use of the word 'culture' here is fair enough (at least in what it tells us about a nation's self-image), the use of the word 'history' is considerably less appropriate. The film is based on a classic novel, not history, and has the archetypal woodenly self-conscious hero figures, magical elements, gravity-defying martial arts, etc. of Chinese blockbusters. A big spectacle, but with nothing new, and about as historical as Mulan.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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Maybe the OP liked the movie? Sheesh. Have a Coke and a smile, my friend.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 09:33 AM
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Not surprised about your reply ......
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 10:12 AM
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Here is a vigorous nod of appreciation for book and film recommendations as a key part of travel support. Thanks, Shanghainese.

I do agree with Peter that the Chinese blockbusters are mostly valuable for the glimpse that they provide into the culture's self concept, but that to me is value enough. What American popular movies suggest about American culture is equally chilling, of course.

Happily, there seems to be more going on in Chinese film than over-orchestrated, over-choreographed, subtle as a sledgehammer extravaganzas. I recently saw one of the young filmmaker's (Jia Zhangke's) works, STILL LIFE. It came out about three ears ago and deals with the terrible dislocations experienced by average people during the Three Gorges Dam (and damn?) project. It is everything that a frenetically paced and emotionally exhausting 'We have 5,000 years of history that can be captured and conveyed in exhausting martial arts sequences' film is not.

I would like to sample more of his work so if anyone has recommendations for Jia Zhangke's films, or those of like-minded colleagues, please share information.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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You want three of Jia Zhangke's earlier films, all of which were banned in China (but after being put on DVD by an art house distributor in the UK are available in China as fakes, and the originals are rentable where I live. Actually I now see two of them are available on Amazon, although from external sellers.)

Xiao Wu

Zhantai (Platform)

Ren Xiao Yao (Unknown Pleasures--this title and other reference within the film itself suggest the director is a Joy Division fan)

From the Cultural Revolution to contemporary dislocation brought about by economic development these films, with brilliant performances by non-professional actors, serve up all the bitterness of the last forty years. Naturally these are not as superficially enjoyable as the cast-of-thousands chop-socky efforts, but are also unlike them in being absolutely unforgettable, and, of course, they provide real historical and cultural background.

In the same tone, albeit properly funded and more slick, see:

Mang Jing (Blind Shaft) directed by Li Yang

This one's widely available.

Peter N-H
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Old Nov 20th, 2009, 05:19 AM
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Happy to report to anyone else who is interested that 3 of the films recommended above (excluding Xiao Wu) are available through Netflix. I have added them to my queue. Thanks.
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