Zhang Yimou

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fiddlesticks
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#26 Post by fiddlesticks » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:10 pm

I don't know that there's a "sequence" that should be followed in Zhang's films. Understanding and appreciating Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles doesn't depend on an understanding or appreciation of his earlier films. I think Riding Alone is fairly typical of his oeuvre (at least the "peasant life in rural China" portion thereof), and being free should be a good introduction to his works. That way, if you don't like it, you haven't spent any money finding out.

EDIT: Wu.Qinghua beat me to it, and I agree with his/her comments (except personally, I'd give the "global blockbusters" a pass).

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Wu.Qinghua
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#27 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:20 pm

Wu.Qinghua beat me to it, and I agree with his/her comments (except personally, I'd give the "global blockbusters" a pass).
Oh, no disagreement at all ... I'd do so, too.

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Murdoch
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#28 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:38 pm

Alright, thanks for the info. Truth be told I was going to attend the screening no matter what so I could finally see one of Zhang's films, but I am glad that I asked anyways if only to get an idea of Zhang beforehand. So thank you, look forward to the film! (Which isn't for another week :( )

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fiddlesticks
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#29 Post by fiddlesticks » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:53 pm

Murdoch wrote:Alright, thanks for the info. Truth be told I was going to attend the screening no matter what so I could finally see one of Zhang's films, but I am glad that I asked anyways if only to get an idea of Zhang beforehand. So thank you, look forward to the film! (Which isn't for another week :( )
Certainly there's no harm in queuing up a Zhang film in the interim; I might suggest The Story of Qiu Jiu, The Road Home, or Not One Less, but only because they're my favorites, not because they're necessarily prerequisites to Riding Alone. In fact, a thorough grounding in Zhang's work prior to this screening might be counterproductive, since you may come away with the impression that his films always revolve around a breathtakingly gorgeous woman, only to be disappointed when she doesn't show up (much) in Riding Alone. :)

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Murdoch
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#30 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:55 pm

fiddlesticks wrote:In fact, a thorough grounding in Zhang's work prior to this screening might be counterproductive, since you may come away with the impression that his films always revolve around a breathtakingly gorgeous woman, only to be disappointed when she doesn't show up (much) in Riding Alone. :)
Well, now I have to see more Zhang. :D

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#31 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:56 pm

Riding Alone is probably most effective if one actually understands both Mandarin and Japanese -- so much of it involved translation (and mis-translation). It is also more sentimental than average for ZHANG Yimou -- possibly because it is a homage to its Japanese star (Ken Takakura, an idol to ZY in his younger days) and to the sort of films KT starred in. (Apparently some of the first Japanese films allowed into China after the culural revolution were Yoji Yamada ones starring Takakura).

It also features a lot of rather exotic Chinese music (which may take a bit of getting used to -- unless you are an ethnomusicologist). ;~}

ZY's films look great on the big screen -- and if available for free, how can one go ewrong.

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#32 Post by fiddlesticks » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:13 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Riding Alone is probably most effective if one actually understands both Mandarin and Japanese
So forget about watching any of the other Zhang films this week, Murdoch, you've got a lot of studying to do! :)

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#33 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:10 am

fiddlesticks wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:Riding Alone is probably most effective if one actually understands both Mandarin and Japanese
So forget about watching any of the other Zhang films this week, Murdoch, you've got a lot of studying to do! :)
It's not like I actually _know_ anyone who can fulfill these criteria. Perhaps making friends with people who understand both languages -- and having them watch it with you might be easier. ;~}

artfilmfan
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#34 Post by artfilmfan » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:29 am

Oh please, do not bring friends to do the translation for you in the theater. It's annoying to those sitting around you. What kind of suggestion is that, Michael? :)

If people were to ask me for recommendation on a Zhang Yimou film to start with, I'd recommend "Judou".

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#35 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:22 am

artfilmfan wrote:Oh please, do not bring friends to do the translation for you in the theater. It's annoying to those sitting around you. What kind of suggestion is that, Michael? :)
They can take notes -- and explain all the inadequately explained by sub-title nuances afterwards. ;~}

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Murdoch
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#36 Post by Murdoch » Thu Aug 27, 2009 3:12 pm

I guess I'll have to bring some of my Japanese friends! However I don't know any Mandarin speakers, hopefully I'll be able to get at least a basic understanding of the film? I'm always up for a challenge, even if I have to post fliers: "filmgoer in need of proper subtitle translation, non-paying volunteer work, good for resume!" or something along those lines. :)

But I will get my hands on a copy of one of Zhang's 90s films in the meantime, I don't know how I've bypassed such a well-known Chinese filmmaker up until now but I'm glad to be making up for it!

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#37 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:31 am

I've not seen Riding Alone....

After the initial dizzying effect of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, there doesn't feel as though there's much substance and I hardly remember Riding Alone... having anything like as much fanfare. Zhang Yimou's cosying up to the authorities has coincided with his massive drop as a film maker.

I'd recommend Raise the Red Lantern to someone who'd never seen his films. Not only do I think it's his best; it was, I think, #1 in my films of the 1990s. It's a deceptively simple tale of power and jealousy but the overall aesthetic and use of colour, much like in Ju Dou, is breahtaking.

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Tommaso
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#38 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 28, 2009 5:58 am

You guys all make me want to re-watch "Riding alone" as soon as possible....

For me it's a bit difficult to understand why there's apparently so little love for his 'big productions' here. Sure, they are totally different from his very humane small-scale films like "The Road Home" or "Not one less", or even from something as visually ravishing as "Raise the Red Lantern" (which would also be my first recommendation), but taken on their own, films like "Hero" and "Flying Daggers" have a very distinct quality which for me is very different to films like "Tiger and Dragon" or "The Emperor's Assassin" with which they are often lumped together. This unique character comes from Zhang's interest in opera and ballet, I believe. In their extreme stylisation and use of colour and movement "Hero", "Flying Daggers" and "Golden Flower" seem to me a continuation of the idea of the 'organized film' or 'total cinema' as first seen in Powell's "Red Shoes" or "Tales of Hoffmann", or, to use a more contemporary example, Greenaway's "Prospero". That these Zhang films seem to kotow to an official political stance might be seen as deplorable, but as pure visual poetry/music they have been hardly surpassed by other films made in the last ten years. "Golden Flower" is the only one where the decorum often leads to shallowness and stasis, but it's still worth seeing. And at least "Flying Daggers" has a lot of undercurrents probing our perception of what is 'real' and the continuous deceptiveness of appearances.

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#39 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:52 am

I have a slight preference for the more recent "little films" over the "big" ones -- but I love them all. And I feel the three wu xia films do a lot less kowtowing than people assume. Such a reading assumes that ZY's films have only the meaning that most readily appears on their surface -- and yet he has always made films with numerous layers of meaning. While I understand (but disagree with) the attacks on Hero, I really don't see why the two later films meet with the same sort of attack.

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zedz
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#40 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 31, 2009 5:58 pm

Murdoch wrote:I'm interested in reading thoughts on Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. I have yet to see any of Zhang's films, but this is showing on my campus (for free!) and wanted to know if this is a good launching-off point or I should seek out his earlier films first.
I knew there was a thread on this film somewhere here, since I really disliked the film and posted my thoughts in it, but the Search function wouldn't turn it up. Eventually I tricked it into divulging its whereabouts: here.

Mark Metcalf
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#41 Post by Mark Metcalf » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:12 pm

I am crazy about Zhang's 3 wuxia films, I've seen each about 4 times. But I had already become a fan of wacky Hong Kong wire-fu, and fantasy movies, so I see them coming out of a long tradition. Tonight I watched Not One Less. Very enjoyable, and similar in story to Qiu Ju. For those who don't know his films, Red Lantern is a MUST-see. The Long Road Home was also very moving.

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#42 Post by Nakadai_77 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:48 pm

My favorite Yimou film is still "Qiu Ju". "To live" is also quite good but the novella the movie was based was much better. Only if Yimou had the guts to be faithful to the ending.

Did not like any of his three Wu Xia film. They went from modiocre to terrible. None got the essense of the concept of Wu Xia right. I watched his "San Qiang" during my recent trip to China. This one is just flat out embarrassing and the audience booed during the whole show. It will be interesting to see how the Western react to this one.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#43 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jan 01, 2010 1:35 am

nakadai_77 wrote:None got the essense of the concept of Wu Xia right.
What is the "essence of the concept" of Wu Xia?

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#44 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:15 am

Nakadai --

Why do you refer to ZHANG Yimou by his given name? Are you personally acquainted with him?

I would note that Hollywood action films are (reputedly) very popular with mainland Chinese movie audiences -- who rarely like Chinese-made movies that are "arty" (preferring silly junk like Crazy Stone).

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Wu.Qinghua
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#45 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:01 am

I don't want to start no argument here, Michael, but I do not agree with your dismissal of "Crazy Stone" as silly junk. I concede, it's not an arthouse masterpiece but a little local low-budget action comedy with some flaws. But I think a huge part of its possibly well-deserved popularity in China rests on wordplay and, and this may be more important, upon the possibility to interpret the film as a comment on the current social and economic developments there.

Btw, I guess that essential concept may turn out to be an essentialist construction.

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#46 Post by Caged Horse » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:14 am

Mr_sausage wrote:What is the "essence of the concept" of Wu Xia?
When you know the answer it will be time for you to leave, Grasshopper. :P

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#47 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:08 pm

Crazy Stone reminds me of some of Johnnie To's flimsiest and silliest early films. Silly Junk can, of course, be both very popular and enduring (viz. Porky's -- which _I_ hated when it came out and still hate).

To get back on topic -- I vastly prefer ZY's "comedies" ;~}

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#48 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:00 pm

It may not be the best place to watch it, but Zhang Yimou's latest film, Under The Hawthorn Tree, is currently up on YouTube.

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bigP
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Re: Zhang Yimou

#49 Post by bigP » Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:47 pm

A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop is up for pre-order from various UK e-tailers. No word on Blu yet, it would seem. Momentum have been very sporadic - at best - with their previous releases over the two formats so it would be nice to see them up the flow of blu releases with this and Leigh's Another Year hitting the stores early next year.

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Re: Zhang Yimou

#50 Post by mach1ne » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:38 pm

Hi,
Does anyone know where I can buy a DVD of Keep Cool (You hua hao hao shuo, 1997) WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES, please?
I have all of Zhang Yimou's films, including a Honk Kong version of Keep Cool, which, although technically a good quality DVD, does not have English subtitles.
I acquired my ZY collection many years ago but have decided to come back to it to complete it with this film. I thought perhaps, now that some years had passed that the DVD might be available but I have searched for it and had no luck. If anyone knows of a manufacturer that I could contact I'd appreciate it. Also, if there is a version online with subtitles that I might be able to view that would be great.
Many thanks,
Gordon

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