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Philly Cheesesteak

Zhang Yimou's Hero

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From one of my all time favourite directors, the classic (and controversial) wuxia... Hero.

 

We haven't had a Chinese selection for the Canon yet. In which case, I nominate Zhang Yimou's Hero. Gorgeous cinematography, impeccable choreography, beautiful colour schemes that serve as fun little narrative devices for visual storytelling, a hauntingly powerful score by Tan Dun... and a weighty plot about what it means to build and maintain a nation.

 

Granted, this isn't exactly Hamilton where, though it analyses all its faults, democracy is otherwise lauded as a noble endeavour...

 

Some have argued Hero's political messages are rather, well, hard right. If not heavily pro-authoritarian.

 

It might very well be the prettiest argument for authoritarianism ever put to film. Or, at the very least, if you want to interpret the film in a better light, you can argue this would be the best argument for (in nerdy-as-fuck D&D terms) Lawful Good.

 

Still, regardless where it falls on the spectrum, you have to concede-

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGq6FXcpxtY

 

This movie oozes grace out of every pore.

 

Should this film make it into the Canon as an example of excellent modern Chinese cinema or does its personal politics mitigate its candidacy?

 

And before anyone asks, sure, I could have nominated Raise the Red Lantern and I would have... but I haven't seen it yet.

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And before anyone asks, sure, I could have nominated Raise the Red Lantern and I would have... but I haven't seen it yet.

 

I haven't seen Hero (the politics indeed have put me off, but I'm also not a fan of OTT modern "epic" action movies), but I will add my recommendation for Raise the Red Lantern. If you want a more nuanced view on 20th-century China - from CPC-approved films, but ones that aren't pure propaganda - it goes great with Shanghai Triad (also by Zhang Yimou) and Farewell My Concubine. Probably best to watch them in that order as well, as they follow the end of pre-modern China through the brief Republican/war years, and conclude in the period of Communist repression of "counter-revolutionary" art. And they're all just more interesting than the too-sterile, too-safe The Last Emperor, IMHO.

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I haven't seen Hero (the politics indeed have put me off, but I'm also not a fan of OTT modern "epic" action movies), but I will add my recommendation for Raise the Red Lantern. If you want a more nuanced view on 20th-century China - from CPC-approved films, but ones that aren't pure propaganda - it goes great with Shanghai Triad (also by Zhang Yimou) and Farewell My Concubine. Probably best to watch them in that order as well, as they follow the end of pre-modern China through the brief Republican/war years, and conclude in the period of Communist repression of "counter-revolutionary" art. And they're all just more interesting than the too-sterile, too-safe The Last Emperor, IMHO.

 

All good points, but speaking as someone who enjoys operatic and "OTT" epics, I dig Hero's big scale dramatic heart.

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