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Hero (Ying xiong) Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ThomasC, Mar 29, 2004.

  1. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    This is a thread was created for those of you who have seen the movie and would like to discuss it, not for release date discussion. I saw it once at my uncle's, and once again today for a Chinese film class.

    The acting was fine and the martial arts and cinematography were excellent, but the story had me going, "So what?" I talked about the movie briefly with one of my aunts last week, and she said that most Americans wouldn't be able to understand it.
     
  2. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    A few thoughts (but not the whole thing), cut from a brief mini-review I did for a local paper:

    Musuem quality images, shot by Christopher Doyle in four rich colour schemes (red, blue, green and white) each representing the theme of its chapter, and Ching Siu-tung’s bountiful, wire-assisted swordplay sequences are employed in the service of a state-pleasing screenplay by Li Feng, Wang Bin and the director that, depending on your political point of view, either advocates absolute power (which might explain the zeal with which the Chinese government supported the film) or Daoist enlightenment and renunciation as necessary speedbumps on the road to greater peace. As such it’s a highly fictionalized account based loosely on many such historically recorded events, HERO will inevitably draw comparisons with CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, with which it shares a equally beautiful visual palette and air of stoic repression, albeit populated with characters who are even more emotionally distant and an arguably laughable climax. Brevity is a big asset here, though. Those unversed in Chinese history or Daoist philosophy may still find much to admire; others may take exception to the message - that massive human suffering should pale in light of the greater cause of uniting the Chinese world, and how those who would oppose it would do well to just, er, lighten up - in view of China’s history of human rights abuse and threatening its rogue states. A pretentious, beautiful, frightening film, yet highly recommended viewing for cinema buffs and scholars of outdated idealism alike. Theme song “Ying Hung” (Hero in Chinese) performed by Faye Wong. Nominated for 14 Hong Kong Film Awards: won for cinematograpy, art direction, action design, sound effects, visual effects and, surprisingly, Tan Dun’s score, which is a virtual copy of his music from Crouching Tiger, right down to the inclusion of Itzhak Perlman.

    -------------

    Certainly a film worth seeing, and you're right, I don't think many viewers even in the arthouses where this will inevitably play will really see the communist underpinnings. Still, there's more than enough eye-candy in its scant 90-some-minute running time to keep people interested.
     
  3. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    Brian's view seems common among many who have seen the movie, yet I slightly disagree. Just as I don't see Tears of the Sun or Open Range as endorsing unilateral action in foreign states, I do not see Hero as an endorsement for the policies of the PRC. Certainly the debate that the movie offers has mirrors in contemporary politics regarding the likes of Taiwan and Tibet. Yet this central theme of Hero is not new at all, and certainly not an invention by the Chinese Communists. Indeed, I distinctly remember writing an essay about events over 200 years ago that were about the same debate in middle school (in Taiwan).


    I'm also not sure if this is the accurate presentation of the debate. The argument of the movie--if you believe the Emperor is telling his true feelings, as opposed to simply finding the best way out of a bad situation--is that unification lessens mass suffering. Of course, the argument is fascistic; the Chinese have been debating the merits of the First Emperor before current unification delimmas. The movie, then, exists in an existing debate and literature that is large and well known.

    I regard the film more as a debate than direct allegory to contemporary politics because of several reasons. One is the track record of director Zhang Yimou. It seems to me that his previous films are not conformist. That this film was championed by the Chinese government could have influenced Zhang, but only he knows. The involvement of Hong Kong actors such as Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung is another sign; they know the whole process of reunification as well as the complex feelings that come with it. And as I mentioned above, I think the final conversation between the Emperor and Assassin could be interpreted in different ways.

    It's surprising to me that Westerners may miss the central debate of the movie, but I guess everyone comes from different backgrounds. As a movie that does further encourage debate and discussion about political attitudes and allegories (at least to certain populations), the effect of the movie might inherantly be the opposite of fascism.

    If one wants to disregard the politicalness of the film, it's still quite a film to watch for reasons mentioned in the above posts, i.e. cinematography, action choreography, scale, costumes, etc. For those who like action, Hero features one absolutely stunning fight scene with Jet Li and Donnie Yen in black and white.
     
  4. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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    Not to mention the Rashomon-styled underpinnings of subjective vs. objective narratives and multiple perspectives (in this case, magnificently symbolized and segregated by color--both photography and costumes).
     
  5. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    I, too, think the final conversation between the Emperor and Assassin could be interpreted in different ways. It's this deliberate ambiguity, heightened (and maybe even a little frustrating) for me by the emperor looking like he's on the verge of tears as he makes the decision to execute the assassin, who seems to have finally come around to the emperor's way of thinking (yet to the leader's ultimate regret), that will probably leave many uninformed viewers struggling to find the meaning of what they've seen (hopefully it'll send them to the local library or online as a starting point) or coming away with the same message that I did: that unification-through-force was as important to the ruling class then as it is now (witness recent heightened sabre-rattling over Taiwan, Kirk's point of origin, I assume).

    I can't say this was wrong in light of Zhang's desire to craft a film that, for once, would be seen, admired and awarded on his home soil without invoking a ban by the government. It's just something that doesn't sit well with me as it feels like subtle indoctrination wrapped up in an admittedly gorgeous package. No doubt my views are informed by growing up in a capitalist democracy (or as close to one as our semi-Socialist Canadian government can get) and, of course, not being Chinese. [​IMG]

    Nonetheless, I find the debates around this film far, FAR more inspiring than those that have swirled up in the wake of, say, THE PASSION, since they deal with, and are inevitably divided along the lines of, political ideologies that have a much more urgent and direct impact on the way we live collectively in the world today, as opposed to religious ideologies that are much more rooted in personal faith that spans a far wider range of beliefs. Then again, I suppose to me both films feel like indoctrination at work: HERO is just the one I can watch over and over again and take something new away from it each and every time. Who knows, maybe it's working...

    Now where's my Little Red Book. [​IMG]
     
  6. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    I saw the American release trailer for Hero in front of Kill Bill Volume II. I guess it's not surprising that the likes of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung were not emphasized in the trailer (a little surprised that Zhang Ziyi wasn't). But the emphasis so strongly on Jet Li and the seemingly similarities to Crouching Tiger will probably lead most people to overlook the bulk of this discussion, which Thomas and Brian both predicted....
     
  7. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

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    Kirk, not to mention that MiramAxe wants to rename it "Jet Li's Hero" [​IMG] [​IMG]

    God I hate Harvey Weinstein.


    Chris
     
  8. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Can't wait to see some of the less-informed mainstream reviews of this one. Should be fun now to see it rated in by no-minds who lump it in context with the other films in the Jet Li catalogue that have made their bastardized way onto U.S. video or, at best, CROUCHING TIGER.

    So is the U.S. trailer at least respectful of the sophisticated nature of the film, or is it just some adrenaline-scored compilation of cool action shots? Why do I suspect there's some sort of ominous voiceover proclaiming something really original along the lines of:

    Cue somber Crouching Tiger-like theme, preferably with erhu predominant for extra "Asian" flavouring:
    "In a age without honour, in a land without laws, ONE MAN dared to challenge an empire!"

    or some such crap...

    Somebody please tell me I'm wrong!
     
  9. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Unfortunately you aren't that far off.

    I've seen the trailer for Hero in front of Kill Bill Vol 2. and I believe that it doesn't really convey the story that well. It mostly plays up Li's character along with comparisons to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and doesn't really do justice to the other characters in any fashion. It is very 'Li centric' and totally mis-characterizes the arrow 'silhouette' at the conclusion of the film. The various color themes, despite being shown in a very limited manner, are completely lost in the trailer due to the focus on Li.

    On the other hand the trailer does provide a glimmer of hope that I'll finally be able to see this film theatrically. So, despite its shortcomings, that's something.

    - Walter.
     
  10. Njal

    Njal Extra

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    I must say I find it more than a bit ironic that people in Communist China are the only ones who are able to see the complete film, as it was originally made (the directors cut, if you will), legally, with free.world, capitalist Miramax/Disney blocking cinema/festival screenings as well as home video releases of it everywhere else.
     
  11. Herschel

    Herschel Stunt Coordinator

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    I've missed a lot of the U.S. release discussion (I only saw the movie for the first time back in November, so I'm kind of late to the game.) I didn't see any mention in this thread of whether they're planning on re-editing it for the US, the way they do with so many movies these days. Anyone know?
     
  12. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    I remember seeing somewhere that Miramax forced the edit prior to the HK release, so that the only version seen was theirs....
    I think I may be wrong, please someone correct me!
     
  13. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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    China may be run by the CCP (remotely), but daily life wise, capitalism reigns supreme. And AFAIK, the 'complete/director's cut' version, closer to 120mins, has never been revealed yet. The cut version (~98mins) is the only one that has been seen by everyone (and their mothers) on DVD and the big screen, China/HK/East Asia included. Hero's producers have stated in interviews it was Miramax/Weinstein pressure that caused the trimming down in the first place, for more 'Western' appeal I suppose

    In regards to Herschel, I wouldn't be surprised if Weinstein further trims the 98mins down, but there hasn't been news of the release of late, nor even if the film will be released on 8/20
     
  14. Njal

    Njal Extra

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    The extended cut was shown in China, and is legally available on the Chinese EDV format (no English subtitles). It's one of the titles you get with the Shinco EDV-8830 player.
     
  15. Aaryn Chan

    Aaryn Chan Supporting Actor

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    China is not scared of anyone. They release whatever they want, in whatever format they wish.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    ...and so do those capitalist bootleggers who operate right under their noses. [​IMG]
     
  17. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Somehow I can't imagine the extended version, if it really exists, would be any better. I mean, the 98 minute version is a nice balance between action sequences and somber naval-gazing, and something tells me those additional 22 minutes are decidedly not action sequences. At 98 minutes, the lecture's just the right length.

    I too, finally saw the trailer attached to Kill Bill 2, and it's EXACTLY what I figured it would be. Ominous voice over, the whole "and now, ONE MAN, will face the empire's deadliest assassins" routine, and of course, action, action, action. Could be interesting to hear audience reaction to this, especially since it doesn't introduce "western-style" behavioural flourishes to it's characters the way CROUCHING TIGER did and instead uses it's characters motivations to support a greater, if rather obvious, message, rather than their own ends.



    ...which is why HERO would be better-served by a remake in North Korea, and the character of the emperor would no doubt be an ancestor of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, who could set his silly little assassins on the straight and veeerrrry narrow path to unanimous will. [​IMG]
     
  18. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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  19. EricW

    EricW Screenwriter

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    the trailer totally gave the movie away (since this is a discussion thread i won't use spoilers): they said Jet Li was on a mission to kill the emperor, which the viewer is not supposed to know.
     
  20. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    I just finished watching the film on DVD and I have a few things to comment on:

    1. The Pipa performance during the duel between Nameless and Sky is excellent. [​IMG]

    2. The person in charge of subtitles was slacking off. The opening and closing written monolouge were not translated. Anybody help a brother out on what it says?

    3. There is no other way to end the film properly. Actions, consequences, and motive play perfectly. Anything else would have created a sloppy mess, where instead there is an excellant story (and character) arc.

    4. The use of color (especially in costume changes) is brilliant and will probably be used as a teaching example in film classes for years to come.

    All in all I give the movie a big thumbs up. The CGI-arrows were annoying however.
     

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