house of flying daggers

Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving week. While most people watch some heartwarming TV special or football on turkey day, I have a slightly different suggestion…

I’m not sure why House of Flying Daggers was chosen as the English name for director Zhang Yimou’s (Hero, The Road Home) newest movie since that has nothing to do with the original Chinese title. The Chinese title is translated to be “10 Sided Ambush” or “Deception from All Sides” depending on the level of Chinese slang/idioms invoked. Still, it’s a name very apt for a film depicting a small microcosm of a struggle that occurred in historical China: a rebellion by the Flying Daggers (they are called that since they toss around daggers) against the emperor. House of Flying Daggers is about two men who share the love of one woman, and all three are on different sides of the struggle between the Flying Daggers and the emperor.

She shows more skin in each successive movie… mmm…

The movie has many plot twists, and when I saw the English language trailer for it, I thought it gave away too much of the later plot, especially since most of the movie is a romantic love triangle and who the girl will end up with is a big part of the suspense (though there are plenty of daggers being tossed and soldiers being decapitated for the rest of us). If you have been reading my blog for the past three years, you know that I’m quite fond of the highly non-meido Zhang Ziyi (and I lamented more than once that I wished Chris Tucker was stabbed by that spear in Rush Hour 2 instead), and she has the role of Mei, the woman who makes the 90 degree angle of this love triangle. In addition of her normal swordfighting, she shows off her singing/dancing/hot springs bathing talents in House of Flying Daggers.

I mean, who wouldn’t fight for that?!?

Her character, Mei, is a blind brothel girl who is also the daughter of the previous chief of the Flying Daggers. She botches up an assasination attempt that introduces her to the two men who fight for her, Leo (Lau Tak Wah, or as you probably know, the guy who played Sheng Tsung in Mortal Kombat) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro, the star of The Returner, which I still need to write something up about). Jin agrees to a plan where he breaks her out of prison and escapes with her to discover the new Flying Daggers leader while Leo gives him support from a distance. Part of the plan has Jin seducing poor Mei… but everyone has a secret and no two people are on the same side.

The story moves along nicely due to its twists and turns, and the martial arts action is brisk. The fighting is no as complicated as Hero since House is really a love story, but there are a few bright spots including the camera work when daggers and arrows go flying. Jin is an archery expect, which lead me to scream in my best imitation rightful heir to Isildur voice, “LEGOLAS!” each time he shot an arrow. Of course, this did not go over well with other movie watchers.

Where’s the dwarf?

The cinematography is also not as majestic as Yimou’s previous works. The locales, with the expection of the early brothel scenes, aren’t anything exceptional… maybe I’m just expecting more after the great cinematographic performance of Hero (recall the lake scene towards the end). Yimous seems to enjoy using colors, which he used in great effect in Hero, and he used it as a nice framing device for The Road Home), and he uses it as a seasonal device here… as if you pay attention, at the beginning of the movie, flowers are blooming (spring) then towards the end the leaves turn colors and finally, at the climax, snow begins to drift down.

Doughnuts, apple cider, and flying daggers

My one major complaint of the movie is sound– the soundtrack isn’t very inspired, and neither male leads are Mandarin speakers (one is from Hong Kong, the other Japan) which leads to some clobbered accents. In all, it is a minor complaint as most of the dialogue is done by Zhang Ziyi, and the soundtrack, while a bit boring, is very appropriate.

While I don’t understand the male casting choices (my mom at least tells me both men are pretty popular in Taiwan) nor really why the movie’s name was changed, for all fans of great martial arts cinema, I recommend this movie, and since at the heart of it is a love story, it should be great for a wide audience as well. Definitely time better spent than watching the Colts destroy the Lions or CSI: Hanaukyo Mansion.

3 Responses to “house of flying daggers”

  1. hey, i didnt know Lau De Hwa was in mortal kombat, can u gime a screenie? i have watched both movies =/
    oo i am so gona see this movie!

    i loved ” CSI:Hanaukyo Mansion”

  2. Hello, my name is Alex, i’m a newbie here. I really do like your resource and really interested in things you discuss here, also would like to enter your community, hope it is possible:-) Cya around, best regards, Alex!

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