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Info on Zhang Yimou's HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS & Wong Kar-Wai's 2046!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with a pair of movies that any film geek worth their weight in salt should be excited as hell to get a chance to see. Zhang Yimou's HERO is allegedly due out this year, if Miramax can ever decide what to do about releasing it. Meanwhile, prey that they haven't butchered it in the innumerable ways they usually go about it, but if you have seen HERO, then hearing Zhang is making a new Martial Arts Epic... well, it's the sort of news to get one giddy. Here's Zhang Yimou's other great films: TO LIVE, JU DOU, SHANGHAI TRIAD, NOT ONE LESS and RAISE THE RED LANTERN. Meanwhile, Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 has been filming seemingly forever, and actually hearing of a release time and an end to filming... well, that's great news and instantly leaps to the top of... I MUST SEE IT NOW lists! If you have yet to discover the magic of Wong Kar-Wai, then you must check out: HAPPY TOGETHER, CHUNGKING EXPRESS and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE! Ok, now let's get to the news!

Hey Harry,

A first timer here. The shootings of the two biggest Chinese language films in 2004 are about to conclude. Just thought I'd send in an update in case anyone is interested. So here's for the geeks (House of Flying Daggers) and the artsy-fartsies (2046).

House of Flying Daggers (Shi Mian Mai Fu)

           

Riding on the box-office success of Hero, arthouse perennial Zhang Yimou is directing another martial arts epic in House of Flying Daggers (tentative English title). Production started on September the 11th last year, which coincided with the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Holiday. Early filming was completed in Ukraine. The All-Asia team stars Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon producer Bill Kong, In the Mood for Love composer Shigeru Umebayashi, Academy Award winning costume designer Emi Wada (Hero, Kurosawa's Ran and Yume) and ace action choreographer Siu-Tung Ching (Hero, Shaolin Soccer).            

Two weeks after the gang returned to China's inland Yongchuan county for more shooting, Anita Mui, who was booked for the second female lead, died from cervical cancer. Mui was often tabbed as Hong Kong's Madonna in the 80s and burst onto the film scene in Stanley Kwan's critically acclaimed Rouge. Instead of casting another actress, Zhang has opted to rework the script due to time constraint. Production is scheduled to finish before the upcoming Chinese New Year.         

(*Spoiler*) In the film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon belle Zhang Ziyi plays a blind sing-song girl from the Ming Dynasty whose real identity, as you may have guessed, is a roaming swordswoman. Two handsome mandarin detectives, played by multi-talented Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, Black Gold) and multi-linguistic Takeshi Kaneshiro (Fallen Angels, Chungking Express), fall in love with the disguised heroine in the search for the real criminal.

2046        

          

Just when people started speculating whether one would have to wait until the year 2046 for Wong Kar-Wai's ballyhooed 2046, earlier this week, official news came from Beijing Xin Ying Lian Film Co., the film's Mainland China distributor that the super high budgeted, super star studded movie had been scheduled for a May Day Holiday theater release. More than four years after he launched the project, Wong and the crew are wrapping up the marathon shoot in Shanghai. The Chungking Express director will fly to France in February and meet with his post production team, which reportedly has been working on special effects and editing for some time. Western audiences should expect a grand premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival.            

In trademark Wong Kar-Wai fashion, cast and crew members did not follow the script during the filming simply because there was no script to begin with. The plot was only briefly explained to cinematographer Christopher Doyle. 2046 marks the sixth time that Doyle (The Quiet America, Rabbit-Proof Fence) has worked on a Wong film. The ensemble cast features on-screen dynamic duos Tony Leung/Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love), Zhang Ziyi/Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Japanese heartthrob Takuya Kimura and Canto-pop siren Faye Wong (Chungking Express).         

The story centers around a writer during his stay in a hotel room numbered 2046. He is befuddled and at the same time inspired by the relationships he witnessed, between men and women, love and sex, and past and future. It is rumored that Faye has posed nude for the sex scenes. However, according to Tony Leung, who got down and dirty with Leslie Cheung in the auteur's Happy Together, "it is nothing like what people think. (The film) was shot with subtlety. Besides the bed, you can't see anything". He added, "The director is amazing. He is adding something new to the film every day. So it is not over until it is in theaters." Even though no one has an idea what the final cut will look like, one thing is for sure: the long wait for us fans will finally come to an end!

If you use this, I am the translator for Gordon Liu:)

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 12, 2004, 12:11 a.m. CST

    FIRST!

    by The Yaks

    Ultimate in geekdom.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 12:38 a.m. CST

    2nd, and Hero rocked...

    by Boris the Blade

    Don't wait for the Weinsteins, just go to Chinatown and buy it for 10 bucks. Oh, you don't live in NYC? Get it off Ebay....well worth it.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 1:30 a.m. CST

    Yay, Faye Wong is acting again!

    by Cash Bailey

    CHUNGKING EXPRESS is a masterpiece. So was ASHES OF TIME.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 1:44 a.m. CST

    best director in the world?

    by Lazarus Long

    If there is one director that critics love to salivate over, it's Wong Kar-Wai. From a purely visual standpoint, he's probably the most exciting imagemaker in film right now. You could turn the sound and subtitles off for In the Mood for Love and still have an amazing experience. Now Christopher Doyle definitely gets some credit for this, but it's the editing of those images that puts Wong Kar-Wai in comparisons with Godard and others. I can't wait to see this film; it will likely be one of 2004's best. As for Hero, it's getting to the point where I'm ready to buy a black market copy, although I really wanted to see it first on the big screen. Luckily there's a Chinatown in L.A., too.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 2:48 a.m. CST

    Chris Doyle also shot MADE.

    by Smurfette

    Can't wait for this one.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 3:19 a.m. CST

    Forgot two other films Harry! :)

    by Kampbell-Kid

    Zhang Yimou also did THE ROAD HOME starring Zhang Ziyi before doing HERO which I ironicly watched today with a friend who thought it was amazing and saddened that it was forgotten during oscars. Once again Miramax mishandles asian cinema. And Wong-Kar Wai also did the artsy martial arts film ASHES OF TIME starring practicly the same lead cast from HERO. However these new films coming out this year from Wong and Yimou could make a asian cinema geek blue balls! Not to mention Kill Bill vol.2 will cater more to the Hong Kong crowd.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 9:58 a.m. CST

    HERO

    by BranMakMorn

    Much of the core audience for HERO have already watched it numerous times on DVD - it's way overdue in the US theaters. Wong Kar Wai's FALLEN ANGELS is also worth a mention.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 10:57 a.m. CST

    ...and perhaps Miramax will obtain US rights so we can be sure n

    by howardroark

    can they fucking release HERO already?

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 11:31 a.m. CST

    is it just me or is Chunking Express extremely overrated?

    by JackLint

    A boring love story with 'California Dreamin' played ad nauseam. At least thats all I got out of it.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 12:22 p.m. CST

    Harry didn't mention Ashes of Time

    by Soops

    Wong Kar Wai's brilliant "art-house" period martial art film. One of my favorite directors, so I'm sure "2046" (like all his films) is worth the wait.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 2:57 p.m. CST

    JackLint ...

    by ChaseSequence

    Yes, it's just you.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 3:04 p.m. CST

    get a grip

    by Mr Brownstone

    "So just remember that when you support Kill Bill, you hurt Zhang Yimou, Jet Li, Tony Leung, Zhang Zhiyi and Donnie Yen, and many other talents in Asian movie-making." -- That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. Granted, Miramax buying and then sitting on foreign films is unfortunate, but they have been doing that for YEARS. It has absolutely ZERO to do with Kill Bill and Tarantino.

  • Ok, that didn't make sense, but this pisses me off. Even though I live in Norway, and Hero was in the cinema almost a year ago. And it's been going on for YEARS. And now they've started sending cease and desist letters to websites just for LINKING to shops (like www.yesasia.com) that sell the HK version of hero. There's a petition for people to sign at http://www.petitiononline.com/warthkf/petition.html .not that it helps.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 4:26 p.m. CST

    oh ans one more thing:

    by gigaloff

    That's supposed to be THEY and HOLE. See? I'm so angry I can't even spell.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 4:27 p.m. CST

    AND dammit! AND!

    by gigaloff

    Grrr.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 4:40 p.m. CST

    Hero: butchered

    by BillEmic

    It's been several minutes so I received my copy of HERO in the mail (thank God I got it before Miramax started clamping down). It's an insanely good film, a real pleasure to watch. The bottom line: if you want to enjoy this movie, order it any way you can. I've heard that Miramax has cut a whopping eighteen minutes from this movie. This is not a film you can just chop eighteen minutes from. Also, snatch up titles like Infernal Affairs I&II while you can - before Miramax does all they can to stop you. If they even try and touch Battle Royale II, I'll be pissed.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Error

    by BillEmic

    My fault...I meant several "months" since I recieved it. Anyway, Miramax is an evil megolithic empire of foul decay. Tarintino should just take it over.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 7:10 p.m. CST

    HERO!

    by Bourne GreyElf

    finally! other people who have seen hero! if anyone wants to discuse it, start up a convo, I've had the dvd forever, and have been dying to find out what the public thinks.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 7:13 p.m. CST

    I knew Miramax would butcher HERO!

    by Bourne GreyElf

    I'm fucking glad I avoided that train wreck and bought the import. 18 minutes cut? EVERY minute is important though, and they better not edit the ending just because its tragic. Fuck miramax AND kill bill.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 9:18 p.m. CST

    Hero overrated

    by BlackHat

    I thought Hero was way overrated -clearly Zhang Yi Mou's sell out movie. Maggie Cheung was great as always and Jet Li was OK - but really seemed like Crouching Tiger lite to me, even including a cameo from Zhang Zhi Yi. Still, had action etc so should be OK well with a US audience.

  • Jan. 12, 2004, 10:12 p.m. CST

    Hero > CTHD

    by BillEmic

    I honestly feel as though HERO is superior to Crouching Tiger in that...well, listen to the commentary on CTHD. It just seemed like they "focus group"ed this movie to death, to make sure it was adequate for both HK and American audiences. They were trying too hard for it to be a success on both sides of the ocean. HERO was just a true-to-itself Hong Kong film. This is just how I perceived it. Also, HERO was just plain gorgeous. I loved the use of color to tell the story. Yes, it's been done before. But in an action/swordplay period piece (starring Jet Li, no less!)? It worked tremendously well. I think HERO is fantastic, great performances from everyone - Tony Leung is untouchable. I don't think I've ever seen him turn in a less than stellar performance. Even Donnie Yen shined in his minimal role. Honestly, how can you say that Crouching Tiger is better than a movie that has a fight between Jet Li and Donnie Yen? >:P

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 1:14 a.m. CST

    The way Hero can be worse than CTHD is...

    by kernelm

    by sucking up to Jiang Zemin and his cronies in Beijing. There's no denying that Hero is a marvelously made film, with great fight scenes, gorgeous cinematography, etc. But in the end, the message is: hegemony and "national unity" are more important than freedom and independence. I guess Alex the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, etc were all great bloody heroes. Let's not forget the immaculate Mao and his murder of tens of millions. And that little text at the end about Shi Huang Ti becoming some benevolent leader? After he took the throne he burned libraries and buried alive all scholars who didn't subscribe to Legalism. (BTW, Mao was a big fan of Shi Huang Ti, and boasted that he would outdo him in terms of erasing knowledge and killing scholars.) This is on top of all the raping and pillaging he'd done to "unite" China in he first place. It really was very sad to see this dreck from the director who'd made so many films that powerfully indicted China's regime (most notably in "To Live"). Watch "The Emperor and the Assassin" for a much better portrait of the same period. P.S. Tragic ending? Ooh, boo hoo, Shi Huang Ti doesn't want to kill him but he must (yeah right). I was ready to kill Jet Li myself after what he did (or rather failed to do).

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 1:21 a.m. CST

    the last grey elf: those 18 minutes were cut from the ORIGINAL (

    by gigaloff

    There is a new version coming out this spring, hopefully. There IS a new version out in japan, but I don't know if that's it. The long version should be about 115 mins. Yay! No spelling mistakes! I guess a good night's sleep helped.

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 10:34 a.m. CST

    kerelm..

    by Bourne GreyElf

    the point of letting the emperor live is, if he had died, the entire country of china would have been thrown into a civil war, every general/warlord would have tried to take over, and that would have resulted in countless more thousands of people dying, not to mention another invading country(probably mongolia) would have swept in, in all the chaos and routed all the divided armies of china, so yeah, Broken Sword knew the Emperor was a tyrant, and so did Nameless, but they learned that the only way to achieve peace is through chaos. or I could be wrong, in which case i'll subject my self to matrix revolutions for eternity as punishment.

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 1 p.m. CST

    98 min is the CUT version

    by sephyr

    The full version never came out, not in Hong Kong theaters, not on Chinese DVD. That "full" version is being called the extended version, and should be ~120 min long. Last I saw (in Dec 2003), it's finally ready to be released on DVD in China, but I haven't seen it anywhere yet.

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 3:39 p.m. CST

    Hero

    by bboyninku

    I am honestly tired of people constantly stating that Hero is an overrated film. Always compared to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon only because it came prior to Hero but in several ways Hero was a more ambitious film. To the Chinese people, Hero depicts the trouble that China faced against the different emperors battling for supremecy. How Zhang Yimou demonstrated this through lavish colors and superb scenery, Hero is a winner. But what really seperates Hero from the others is its message of Heroism. This is what Zhang's true intent was and those who realize it can relate to me on how its message is stronger then that of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon's. And for martial arts choreography, honestly Yuen Wo Ping was tagged to CTHD but Ching Siu Tung did a very good job especially the Jet Li Vs. Donnie Yen fight. But if your looking for great martial arts choreography, might as well look for Fist of Legend, Iron Monkey, Prodigal Son, 36th chamber, but for a magnificent wuxia movie, this are as good as they come.

  • Jan. 13, 2004, 6:06 p.m. CST

    Best fights

    by BillEmic

    Yes! Fist of Legend has probably the most incredibly martial arts battles I've ever seen. This film can't be reccomended enough. It's jaw-dropping, really. But the wire work is never overdone. Very subtle, well placed. Once you watch this film, you'll forget about those two over-rated, Hollywood brothers, that's for sure. Also, I have to put the spotlight on a wonderful film called DRIVE, starring the incredibly talented Mark Dacascos. This film, along with Fist of Legend, have the best martial arts choreography. What really highlights the film, though, is Mark's insane gymnastic abilities that truly propel each fight into another level. The ending battle is an amazing fight between Mark and Masaya Koto (who stars in Aragami, one of the latest from the director of Versus). Another highly underrated gem is Bloodmoon, starring UK martial artist Gary Daniels. Both Drive and Bloodmoon are American films, however, their action choreography is done by Asian talent so it seems appropriate to mention them here.

  • Jan. 14, 2004, 1:52 a.m. CST

    Harry, are you EVER going to mention Anita Mui around here?

    by St.Buggering

    You being someone who has extolled the virtues of Hong Kong cinema, I think it's shameful that this has gone unmentioned here. You'll put up a tribute to the guy who played Blacula, but when one of the biggest stars of asian cinema passes away at 40, there's nothing? You should be ashamed, Knowles.

  • Jan. 14, 2004, 10:48 a.m. CST

    just wondering, Har, how much salt are you worth?

    by Hud

    come awn! it's a joke!

  • Jan. 14, 2004, 8:30 p.m. CST

    The way Hero can be worse than CTHD is...

    by BlackHat

    Hear, hear Kernhelm - though I agree the duel in the rain with Donnie Yen was great to see. And I do agree that the acting was pretty good all round. I think its a reasonably common complaint that the movie does conveniently cater to the views of the PRC leadership and the importance to suppress the desires of the individual for the collective good of society as a whole, even if it does result in unhappiness and death for you and your loved ones. But so what else is new? I thought the funniest line of the movie was when Qin Shi Huang Ti was talking about how he the competing scripts were chaotic and that someone should produce a common script - cheesy but still funny.