So I ended up watching THREE FILMS: IP man, Apocalypto and Hero (2002). But that felt tremendously good. Except now I have to do loads of catch-up homework. (reviews below).
IP Man - A semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun. The film is set in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub of southern Chinese martial arts, where various schools actively recruit disciples and compete against each other. Although the Wing Chun master Ip Man is the most skilled martial artist in Foshan, he is unassuming and keeps a low profile. That is, until Japan invades China and he struggles keep his family alive, finding out what martial arts really meant for him and his village.
I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would; I thought it would just be your ordinary martial arts movie but the historical and emotional elements were fantastic. I liked how it didn’t focus on the “fighting” but more on the “spirit” and “art” of martial arts. It was very touching and the fights were pretty well choreographed. Most actors did a very impressionable job (though I think the wife’s acting was below mediocre).
It was all in Mandarin, Cantonese and some Japanese. It was interesting because at some points, one character was conversing to another in Cantonese and the other character replied in Mandarin and I was just scratching my head like wha-? But to someone who can’t tell the difference, it sounds convincing enough, I guess.
Definitely recommended for those who like action! Definitely don’t go into it expecting perfect, realistic action sequence (it’s never truly realstic) or a historically accurate movie (it isn’t at all!). But it’s good entertainment. I thought it was beautifully done and intriguing.
Apocalypto - As the Mayan kingdom faces its decline, the rulers insist the key to prosperity is to build more temples and offer human sacrifices. Jaguar Paw, a young man captured for sacrifice, flees to avoid his fate.
I’m not really sure what to say about this. I went into it expecting it to be somewhat gruesome but I was definitely not prepared for it. I think it was such an experimental, adventurous film. The entire film was in Mayan (English subtitles) and all the actors were running around the forest half-naked; I’m not saying this in a negative way, it’s just something I’ve never seen before in a movie.
It was intense, fast-paced and it really sucked me into the story. In terms of action, it was perfect (disregarding the brutal violence but that’s quite accurate in terms of Mayan culture). The scenery was beautiful, it was all visually stunning and I felt like I was really immersed into the setting. All the actors/actresses did a wonderful job as well.
All I can say is, I was definitely shocked, entertained and pretty much mind-blown. Not because it was a psychological, deep story. I was mind-blown because of the novelty in the portrayal and the portrayal itself. Mel Gibson did a pretty good job bringing such a simple story to life.
Though I definitely recommend action-movie-lovers to give it a try, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT EVEN LOOK AT IT if you are any bit squeamish because… there is a lot of violence. I cannot emphasize it enough, there’s A LOT of violence; as much as Korean and Japanese thrillers have (if not more), though less flashy (ie: no blood sprouting in fountains).
Hero (2002) - The story of how one man defeated three assassins who sought to murder the most powerful warlord in pre-unified China.
I was surprised by this movie too, particularly about how the story was told. I don’t want to spoil it because that was the highlight of the movie for me. The action sequence is not Hollywood martial arts, it’s Hong-Kong style so expect a lot of flying around, fights in air and shouting.
The cinematography was beautiful though; very dramatic, serene and scenic. The colours between the character’s wardrobe and landscape was well coordinated to bring in a different atmosphere and to signify a certain “layer” in the story. The fight sequences themselves had a certain beauty, especially the way the hair and clothes fluttered about and the way objects in the setting interacted with the fight (ie: leaves, raindrops etc).
The sound was amazing too. There was careful emphasis on nature sounds complimented by traditional Chinese instrumental to really create a wonderful atmosphere. The raindrops, the leaves, it was very well-incorporated.
A fairly straightforward, simple story, at first, a bit unpredictable but once you get into the story, most of the events were expected. But I think the strengths of the movie is really about the beauty… the simple beauty of the story and the beauty of the action, characters and environment.
The film made me fall in love with Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Broken Sword) and Maggie Cheung (Flying Snow). They were so charismatic and classy. I felt like they portrayed their character very well.
The film also affirmed my dislike for Zhang Ziyi (Moon). I feel like she’s just a pretty face and can’t act. I mean, sure, there’s some Hollywood actresses I like that have a pretty face but can’t act very well (there’s only one I can think of right now though), but I don’t feel much sincerity in Ziyi (and her acting) and I think she lacks charisma as well.
Anyways, I liked the aesthetics of the film and it’s not like the film was super long… it was intriguing and I highly recommend it.