do you ever listen to the commentaries that are so ubiquitous in DVDs these days (even when the cast or director have nothing much to say)? i do, sometimes … when i find a particular film fascinating. like last night, i saw “house of flying daggers”; are you familiar with it? i’ve had a DVD of that film for years but never got around to watching it … until last night.
if you haven’t seen or heard of it, here’s a brief synopsis from amazon.com: “Government officers Leo and Jin (Asian superstars Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) set out to destroy an underground rebellion called the House of Flying Daggers (named for their weapon of choice, a curved blade that swoops through the air like a boomerang). Their only chance to find the rebels is a blind woman named Mei (Ziyi Zhang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who has some lethal kung fu moves of her own. In the guise of an aspiring rebel, Jin escorts Mei through gorgeous forests and fields that become bloody battlegrounds as soldiers try to kill them both. While arrows and spears of bamboo fly through the air, Mei, Jin, and Leo turn against each other in surprising ways, driven by passion and honor.”
director zhang yimou and ziyi zhang did the commentary, and it really provided me with a deeper appreciation of the story. in fact, i watched the movie again this morning … and found little things, little yet important things i missed the first time.
it was funny to hear the director’s concern that western audiences wouldn’t be able to tell the leading men apart (in the initial scenes, they were wearing similar soldier uniforms) so he had takeshi eat peanuts all the time to differentiate him from andy lau! i would have told him asian audiences have similar problems (i saw john woo’s five-hour epic “red cliff” with my cousins over the weekend and we kept saying “wait, who is this again?” because we had trouble keeping track of the characters).
and there’s this battle near the end between takeshi and andy and the trees in the background turn from bright autumn colors to white because of winter. initially, i thought it was a metaphor for how long they’ve been fighting. then i heard the director refer to an old chinese saying about how people can affect weather and this was andy and takeshi changing the season because of the intensity of their duel. i thought that was lovely. then i laughed out loud when he added he didn’t really have much of a choice with that particular sequence because it took more than 10 days to shoot and halfway through it started snowing in the ukraine, where they shot parts of the movie.
if you get the chance, watch this movie. it’s a wonderful love story with absolutely gorgeous cinematography and kick-ass action sequences. plus it stars my new movie crush 😉