It's been more than two years since Zhang Yimou's "Hero" was completed, and a year and a half since it was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film (it lost to Germany's "Nowhere in Africa").
Yet only now is the movie, which is one of the most spectacular epics of modern times (it is China's most expensive film to date), getting an American release.
This says more about the erratic and irrational nature of American film distribution than it does about the quality of the movie, which has quite a bit in common with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," one of the most popular foreign-language films ever shown in the United States. Among the key elements in both movies: gravity-defying martial-arts battles, the luminous presence of Zhang Ziyi and the cool melodies of composer Tan Dun, according to the Seattle Times.
One could write sonnets to each of the masterfully color-coded sequences. Under the watchful eye of cinematographer Christopher Doyle ("In the Mood for Love"), muted grays evoke as much wonderment as vibrant reds. The palette shifts with each revised account of how an officer known as Nameless (Jet Li) kept assassins (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung and Donnie Yen) from deposing the empire-minded king of Qin (Chen Dao Ming). The film is set in the brutal Warring States period of ancient China, the era that produced Sun Tzu's "Art of War.", reports San Francisco Chronicle.
But the emotional subtleties of "Hero" will be of less interest to viewers, especially when an army arrives and launches fusillades of arrows at the school so thick they blot out the sky and rain down upon it like, well, like rain.
Emotionally, Li remains rather stiff and closed off in the title role, but physically, he is awe-inspiring.
The film boasts what appears to be a cast of hundreds of thousands, and sequences involving massed armies will remind many of "The Lord of the Rings" and the epics of Akira Kurosawa. My choice for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography is Christopher Doyle for this film because I cannot imagine anyone surpassing his achievement. In another stunning sequence, battling warriors skip across the surface of a lake like stones. Regarded as a cinematic hybrid of ballet, martial arts, acrobatics and painting, "Hero" is a triumph, informs Boston Herald.
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