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In 859AD, China's once flourishing Tang Dynasty is in decline. Unrest is raging and the corrupt government is locked in battle with rebel armies, such as the revered House of Flying Daggers, which is growing ever more powerful under a mysterious new leader. Two local captains, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are ordered to capture the new leader and the two hatch an elaborate plan. Captain Jin will pretend to be a lone warrior called Wind and rescue the beautiful, blind revolutionary Mei (Zhang Ziyi), from prison, earning her trust and escorting her to the secret headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers. She might be that new leader... The plan works, but to their surprise, Jin and Mei fall deeply in love on their long journey. Danger lurks in the forest surrounding them, and secrets in the hearts near them.

Review by Louise Keller:
Zhang Yimou uses the screen like a canvas. And on his canvas, he liberally splashes colours that are as visceral as the emotions they portray. House of Flying Daggers is a breathtakingly gorgeous film that mezmerises through the complexity of its emotions of love, revenge, jealousy and betrayal. The martial arts sequences will make you gasp and are often closer to ballet than swordplay. At the film's heart is a tale about love and passion. Two men, one woman and a cause to which they all believe.

The 2-disc DVD package is as beautifully presented as you would imagine, with a fascinating insight into the making of the film including a work in progress look at the dance and martial arts scenes. There are storyboards to view, cast and crew biographies to read, plus film locations to visit (from the ornate Beijing Peony Pavilion to the icy Ukranian snow fields).

More emotionally satisfying than the marvellous Hero, House of Flying Daggers introduces us to a handful of characters that are not what they seem. Set in 859AD, when China is poised on the brink of revolt, we meet a blind dancer and two government officials. The sumptuous sets and dazzling costumes of the early scenes when Zhang Ziyi's Mei dances before an intoxicated Captain, are replaced by landscapes that are so beautiful, they could have fabricated by a brush. Ziyi looks like an ornate doll in this sequence that uses flowing pink scarves, floral drums and swords, and whether she is dancing or in the throws of the most complex martial arts pose, she is exquisite.

Former Taiwanese pop idol Takeshi Kaneshiro and Hong Kong's Andy Lau are compelling as the two men bewitched by Mei, and when they face each other in the final dramatic scene surrounded by nothing but snow, there is much at stake.

Vivid autumnal hues with their earthy tones are contrasted by the dramatic white of an unforgiving wintry white setting while the passions of new love are ignited and their consequences discovered. Flying Daggers is more than the name given to the revolutionary organization; these weapons soar through the air with deadly accuracy to meet their targets with the directness of an arrow seeking the bullseye. The action is pure fantasy and while there are echoes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the bamboo forest scene, when the lovers run through the trees as the enemy targets them from above the tree tops, the concept has been taken one step further.

A poetic and visual spectacle, House of Flying Daggers brings martial arts one leap closer to ballet, as it involves us in a tale that is both sensual and emotional tale.

Published July 7, 2005

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Shi mian mai fu

CAST: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Song Dandan

PRODUCER: Bill Kong, Zhang Yimou

DIRECTOR: Zhang Yimou

SCRIPT: Zhang Yimou, Fang Li, Bin Wang


EDITOR: Cheng Long

MUSIC: Shigeru Umebayashi


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 20, 2005


SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 disc set; Disc One - feature; Disc Two - making of; storyboards; cast and crew; gallery; site visit


DVD RELEASE: June 15, 2005

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