MovieHype00677 - THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
When I reviewed HERO I remember thinking the plot was fairly ordinary, but the unmatched precise beauty elevated the film to another level. I had no idea what those colors meant (and I’m not sure a Chinese person would either), but they felt like they meant something.
There is no precise beauty in THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS. Here the beauty is raw, wild, like flowers growing in a field, the way the wind whips off the mountain. It’s astounding to me that the same director could make both films. Where HERO is measured and voluptuous, FLYING DAGGERS is wild and chaotic. At the end I’m forced to concede I prefer the beauty here, untamed, unkempt, unbridled.
Of course, part of that might be a story that kept me guessing from beginning to end. It’s rare I’m absolutely shocked that often in a normal drama. The story is of two police captains, trying to infiltrate the famous Flying Daggers resistance group. Rumor has it the dead leader’s blind daughter is in town, working at a brothel.
To describe the brothel scene would not do it justice. The blind girl (Mei) is surrounded by drums, and the police captain throws rocks at the drums, in increasingly complicated patterns. The girl is required to hit the drums in the same order. (You know, like that round electronic game back in the age of Atari with the four colors and you’re supposed to follow the pattern.)
Is this something deeply significant in Chinese culture, or did they just set it up because it’s so beautiful and cool? Matters not.
After the girl is arrested the two police captains work out a plan where one of them will “break out” the girl and help her get back to her Flying Daggers homies, thereby infiltrating them.
We’ve all seen enough movies to know what’s coming. At the same time, I had no idea what was coming. Well, I thought I did. But I was wrong. Again. And again. And again.
Ziyi Zhang plays Mei, and a better young actress does not exist. I’ve said this before, but if Zhang was American she’d have 4 Oscar nominations by now. Her physical skill to pull off the intricate fight scenes (which are really like a dance) is incredibly impressive, but she conveys so much emotion in her face…there is really no one like her.
THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is savagely beautiful, as much as any movie I’ve come across. The director films in nature so well it reminds me somewhat of Kurosawa. He’s unafraid to put trees, grass, or anything in the way of the camera. (There’s a snowstorm near the end so heavy you can barely see the characters for minutes on end.) I was completely captivated by the beauty, moved to tears more than once.
Many people will never be able to get into a movie with subtitles, which is more the shame. THE HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is one of the best.