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The BanquetMovie Review
by Georgette Tan
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Huang Xiaoming, Ma Jingwu.
Movie goers need to bear in mind that this period tragedy clocks in at about 2 hours 16 minutes, and it is not a Zhang Ziyi ogle fest.
If you think it is, I'm afraid you're going to be as terribly bored as the two grown men sitting behind me during the afternoon show I went to. People like them need to be banned from the local cinemas - chair-kicking, talking at the top of their voices, huge dramatic sighs (of boredom) that you don't even get from the tragic characters onscreen, and the gall to loudly announce, 10 minutes to the end, that they really should leave because the movie's a waste of time anyway.
The only reason why I didn't smack them over the head with my bag is because they look like they are capable of hunting down and exterminating my entire bloodline.
Speaking of which, exterminating an entire bloodline is a punishment for crime in the unnamed kingdom where The Banquet takes place. To those of you who can appreciate epics, this movie is a thing of great and terrible beauty.
Empress Wan (Zhang Ziyi) and Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu) were childhood sweethearts until the prince's father took her as his bride and queen. Heartbroken, Wu Luan leaves to devote himself to the study of art, theatre, and dance.
The Emperor is murdered by his own brother Li (Ge You), who wants the throne and the Empress for himself. Empress Wan sends messengers to summon the Prince home. The new Emperor Li sends assassins. They fail. The fight at the bamboo theatre and the disgraced assassins' return to the castle are spectacular and powerful.
Prince Wu Luan finds his way back to the palace. While he conspires to kill his father's murderer, Emperor Li conspires to kill him and Empress Wan conspires to kill the Emperor. The only person who isn't concerned about killing anyone is the innocent Qing (Zhou Xun), the Minister's daughter who is promised to Prince. Wu Luan, however, only has eyes for his stepmother.
The Banquet was loosely based on Hamlet, which I won't draw any comparison to because my Shakespeare lore is vague at most.
Let me list the good points: gorgeous clothes and sets, beautiful framing of shots, breath-taking fight choreography that is almost like dancing, and a lovely soundtrack. I wanted to say "elegance of prose" but it'll sound funny coming from someone who doesn't speak Mandarin. The translation is elegant enough, given that court language is like poetry.
The bad points? You have to really like epic movies in the genre of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero to appreciate this one.
Oh, and everyone dies in the end, but that's why it's called a tragedy.
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