House of Flying Daggers on DVD
With the release of Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon a few years ago, the world of martial arts movies was
Gone was the typical Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan-style
punch-kick-bang-crash type of fighting, to be replaced by a more fantastic,
graceful, anti-gravity type of fighting. The stories suddenly became more
compelling, no longer sticking with the tried and true nice guy gets
wronged and seeks revenge approach. CG was used more prominently, as well
as a much wider array of weapons, rather than just hands and feet and the
Hero upped the ante. And now House of Flying Daggers ups it again.
It is a glorious movie in every sense of the word, gripping and breathtaking
from minute one to minute 119.
We meet Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a beautiful blind dancer, at the Peony
Pavilion (some sort of ancient mix between brothel, hotel and music hall).
Shes brought in to dance for Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a police officer,
but people begin to get suspicious due to her unmatched abilities. Plus, the
leader of the House of Flying Daggers happens to have a blind daughter who
reportedly ran away, so it doesnt take long to put two and two
Jin and Leo (Andy Lau) devise a plan to infiltrate the House of
Flying Daggers and hopefully put a stop to their rebellious tendencies. They
play on Meis vulnerabilities and use her as bait. But perhaps, just like
everybody else, shes not exactly who or what she would have them
The film is a series of glorious action scenes strung together by
a series of glorious story-oriented scenes. Unfortunately, the story can barely
be mentioned, due to so darn much going on (despite how it seems at some
points). At the exact moment at which things start getting predictable,
everything turns around and gets as unpredictable as one could fathom. And the
action scenes, including a wonderful sequence featuring a dash through a bamboo
forest, are some of the finest ever put on film.
Not bad for a love story.
Some folks may have a hard time with the whole anti-gravity,
flying around thing. Thats completely impossible, they might
say. But such points are meant to signify (metaphorically, of course) the grace
and discipline that their training has allowed. Obviously these people
cant fly through the air and balance on flowers, but well be gosh
darned if it doesnt look great.
A quick mention must also be made to Zhang Ziyi. Not only is she a
great actress who can portray the depth and emotion necessary for her
character, but her grace and skill as a martial artist is simply mind-boggling.
Its hard to imagine how successful the movie would have been with a
different actress in the lead.
House of Flying Daggers uses every cinematic trick in the book.
Its use of color, effects, action, story, and extremely talented actors make it
possibly the greatest martial arts movie ever made, and quite possibly the best
movie of the year (although it would be hard pressed to unseat Shaun of the
Dead). It is absolutely glorious from start to finish, and unlike
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, doesnt
waste valuable time with seemingly endless boring-as-heck desert scenes. For
all fans of martial arts, House of Flying Daggers is as good as they come.
A top-notch DVD presentation is essential for such a film, and
Columbia Tristar has delivered the goods. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic
widescreen, the picture quality is stunning. Bright, vibrant colors leap off
the screen and the beautiful backgrounds are lush and breathtaking. Detail and
skin tones are perfect, with not a trace of dust or grain anywhere on the
print. Audio is available in English, French, or Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1,
but the only true way to watch is with the subtitles (sorry, but its
true!). The movies wonderful score always stays prominently in the
background (if that makes any sense), while dialogue and sound effects make up
the bulk of the audio. Bamboo spears whiz past your head, swords clash, and
arrows whoosh out of their respective bows like they were coming
from the kitchen. Everything about the movie and DVD make for a wonderful
movie-watching experience. Kudos to the filmmakers, and even to the DVD
Extras on the disc include an audio commentary by director Zhang
Yimou and Zhang Ziyi. Honestly, this is probably much more interesting if you
understand their language, since otherwise youre forced to
listen to the commentary by reading the subtitles, which just
doesnt have the same effect for some reason. But the 45-minute making-of
featurette is better (it still uses subtitles, but at least you have visuals to
go along with the voices), chronicling the progression of the production from
pre to post. Theres also a shorter visual effects featurette, storyboard
comparisons, photo galleries, and a music video.
House of Flying Daggers, from Columbia Tristar Home
119 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced,
Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Produced by Bill Kong, Zhang Yimou
Screenplay by Li Feng & Zhang Yimou
& Wang Bin
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think