26 November, 2009
Epic Film, Epic Day
So, everything started because I watched Fearless, and decided to see what else actor Shido Nakamura has done, since I liked his portrayal of Tanaka. I saw he's in a film called Chi bi, aka Red Cliff. John Woo, even. Interesting. A gallop through the intertoobz showed me that, in fact, the film would be enjoying a limited release in the U.S. Thanksgiving week, it was actually at a local Seattle theatre, and I'd be off that day. I drafted two of my friends as partners-in-movie-watching, one of whom is a die-hard Chinese epic fan. Simple, right?
Well, until my intrepid companion's car broke down, and then we were two.
And then we get to Seattle, and discover that while Moviefone was correct that the film was playing at the Landmark Theatre, it failed to mention that there are many Landmark Theatres, and that Red Cliff was only playing at one of them. We eventually found out which one. Then we couldn't find a parking space.
Show time came and went. Still no parking lots that took cards. But we found Half-Price Books, which at least had customer parking, and could fill in some time before the next showing. We could stop in for a few minutes, we said. Just to browse, we said.
Several hundred dollars later, we made our escape.
And we found a pay lot that took debit cards. And a little teriyaki joint called Kyoto Teriyaki, which is utterly delightful. I've never had Japanese fast food that good. If you're in that part of the U-District looking for good, quick food, head there.
All of that just to get to the film. And was it worth it? Fuck, yes.
It's brutal, beautiful, brain-bending film. It's set in China's Warring States Period, which is the ideal time to choose for an epic. I'm not going to try to summarize. I'm just going to go through a checklist:
Heroic heroes and villainous villains? Check.
Strong female characters who actually make a difference to the outcome? Check.
War and chaos? Check.
Relied on realism rather than supernatural shennanigans? Check.
Didn't waste too much time on unrealistic battle sequences, but showed some incredible Chinese military tactics in a jaw-dropping way? Check.
Pulled no punches as to the brutality of war? Check.
Humorous lines? Check.
Poignant lines? Check.
Quotable lines? Check.
Poetic beauty? Check.
Tremendous acting? Check.
A movie that will follow you home and beg you to keep it? Check.
I shall say no more, because this movie can neither be explained nor summed up without doing it a severe injustice. If you get a chance to see it in the theatre, do. If not, buy the DVD. Seriously.
Do I have quibbles with the film? Sure. It's too fucking short, and it shows. Keep in mind that the Chinese release was nearly five hours long. John Woo had to do some serious chopping to bring it down. There are some moments that he could have done away with, like the obligatory sex scene, but really, there's not much not to like here. And all the minor little quibbles are forgiven when you get to the end. Trust me on this.
So, it's been a busy day, about to get busier because I bought an assload of books. Much research to be done. Once I get done hyperventilating over the movie, that is.