Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Banquet (夜宴)

The Banquet (夜宴) Chinese director Feng Xiao-gang (冯小刚) is perhaps best known for his series of blockbuster comedies such as "Be There or Be Square" ("不见不散") or "A World Without Thieves" ("天下无贼"). His films are generally funny, original, entertaining, and almost surely have the irresistible soft-spoken Ge You (葛优) as a lead.

Well, Feng Xiao-gang seems tired of making us laugh, so he decides to make a tragedy instead of a comedy. Not just any tragedy, but an epic "Hamelet," well, sort of.

His latest film "The Banquet" ("夜宴", China 2006, 131 min.) is an lavish feast to the eyes and ears, but not to the brain. Its movie set is claimed to be the largest ever built in China, and the music is by renowned Chinese contemporary composer Tan Dun (谭盾). Of course, Ge You (葛优) is the lead actor in this film, accompanied by the always gorgeous looking Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) and our San Francisco native Daniel Wu (吴彦祖).

Daniel Wu plays the Prince Wuluan ("Hamlet), who is four years older than the Empress Wan, played by Zhang Ziyi (actually he is five years older in real life, but who is counting?), and they like each other. However, Wuluan's father, the Emperor, decided to marry Empress Wan. The heart broken Wuluan went far away and found comforts in dance and music, oh martial arts too. A few years later, Wuluan's uncle Li, played by Ge You, murdered the Emperor and made himself the Emperor, and then he took Empress Wan as his wife as well.

Now, what is Wuluan gonna do after both his father and his uncle took his beloved woman away from him and after his father is murdered by his uncle?

It really doesn't matter. No matter what he does, it's a messed up family already. How in the world the whole royal family want to marry the same woman, while they pretty much have the power to have any woman they want? I can't help but comparing this story with another superduperly messed up royal family in "Curse of the Golden Flower" ("满城尽带黄金甲").

One thing in common in both films is that they all use the story to show off the extraordinary looking cinematography. But the characters and the plots are flawed, royally.

However, I still think this film is worth seeing, almost for the same reason as I feel about "Curse of the Golden Flower."

I am looking forward to Feng Xiao-gang's next comedy, so I can laugh again, with its characters, but not at them.

My rating: 7 out of 10.

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