Friday, 22 June 2007

Zhang Yimou 张艺谋 One of the world's greatest directors

Mike and I both love films by Zhang Yimou. They are so beautiful, inspiring, and show the undeterminable strength of the human character.

My mother introduced us to his films a few years ago. She said, "I borrowed this video tape from the Chinese video store. Here take a look. I bet you'll like this movie." I watched it, and I was hooked. I bawled my eyes out. The film was The Road Home the film that launched Zhang Ziyi's film career.

(NB: In English their names should be Yimou Zhang and Ziyi Zhang but I feel so weird saying that because I'm used to calling them by their Chinese name which puts the surname first).

No matter how many times I watch that film I am reduced to tears. When Mike and I were in Kuala Lumpur (just before we arrived in Shanghai), it came on television and I was already bawling my eyes out because I knew what was going to happen.

I thought that movie was 'bad' for making one cry.. that was until I saw To Live, starring Gong Li.

I bought the DVD For Mike as a Christmas present. I got some 40% off DVD vouchers at Borders and figured it was a good idea to use them for Christmas presents. I also bought my sister a DVD from there for Christmas. Anyway, since I know Mike loves foreign films I went to that section and ummed and erred for HOURS about which ones to get. I ended up getting him To Live and Pushing Hands by Ang Lee.

We finally got around to watching To Live only in April (due to all our wedding planning, wedding and honeymoon in Jan-March).. and OMG it was the most beautiful, sad, gut-wrenching, amazingly emotional film I have ever seen! If you have seen the trailers you get a vague idea of what it's about. Apart from the story lines involving family relationships there is the backdrop of the historical changes throughout China in the turbulent times of the 40s, 50s ,60s and 70s.

In terms of pulling at one's heartstrings it is along the lines of the wonderful Life is Beautiful (La Vita è bella) by the wonderful Roberto Benigni. I also find those two films similar because the backdrop is based on real events through time and history. I love how you get a sense of what it must've felt like to be in that situation. Just amazing.

Another one I should mention is Not one less. A low budget film, it reportedly stars no actors. All of the people in the film are just normal people that Yimou found. It is such a simple story, but so sweet, and lovely. It is one of my sister's favourite films.

Of course then there are the recent blockbusters Hero and House of Flying Daggers. It's so easy to compare the two, as they were released so close together and both star Zhang Ziyi. I'm not sure which one I liked better but I absolutely loved the way that colours were used in the landscape scenes in House of Flying Daggers. The way it was filmed and done with the frozen water and everything, it was breathtaking.

If you have never watched a Zhang Yimou film, you should. You won't regret it! :)

NB: The beautiful film To Live, which won a prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, is banned in China which is ironic given it was made here and starred Chinese actors/actresses. But if you have seen the film you can understand why. There is the sensitive issue with the cultural revolution and that tumultuous era.

PS: Under no circumstances should you go and look it up on imdb. Unless you want to know pretty much everything that happens!

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