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Red Cliff - The Ex-Communicator

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June 15th, 2009


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12:59 pm - Red Cliff
Red Cliff is a Chinese-language (Mandarin?) film from John Woo. It's a huge-scale mediaeval warfare epic. That means you know exactly what you will get: a thousand warships sailing up the Yangtze, heroes fighting off dozens of assailants, the imperial palace with massed ranks of kneeling officials, Tony Leung. And that's what you get. 90% of the film is battle, with occasional interludes of calligraphy, music and rainfall. It's completely by the book. Personally I like this kind of thing, and I expect you know whether you do or not.

I have two complaints - one is that it has no hidden depths of any kind*: it's pretty conventional. The second is that it is about half an hour too long, so it gets repetitive and tedious at the end (IMHO). It's like Hero without the sexual complexity, and hallucinatory oddity.

*OK, maybe a wee little bit of sexual subtext with the commander in chief

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:davidcook
Date:June 15th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
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robin_d_laws wrote about Red Cliff earlier this year - most notably, that the Hong Kong release was in two parts, and they would be "smushed together" for other regions. I'm guessing that was the version you saw - and that would explain why it felt long, it's actually two movies rolled into one.
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From:communicator
Date:June 15th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
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Very interesting - I think it would have worked much better as two films. Presumably they had to cut a lot to make it a single over-long film.

Incidentally, as I went in the usher stopped me - the first time this has ever happened - and said with a worried expression 'You do realise it's in Chinese?' I said 'I think I'll cope' with a smile.
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From:korintomichi
Date:June 15th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Where did you see Red Cliff? We've been really wanting to catch it, but haven't managed to find it in any cinemas in Cov (although we have been away recently)
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From:communicator
Date:June 15th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
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I saw it last night at the Showcase - very small audience though, so it may not last
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From:korintomichi
Date:June 15th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
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Damn! Our usual source of film listings has let us down - it isn't listed on cinemas-online. Thanks for letting us know.
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From:communicator
Date:June 15th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
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Showcase online says:

Red Cliff (Chi Bi)
(2:11 mins)
1:05pm, 4:20pm, 8:10pm
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From:matildabj
Date:June 15th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
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That confirms my decision not to go see it. I had to fast-forward through the last 30 mins of House of Flying Daggers, so I suspect boredom would set in with this one, too.
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From:communicator
Date:June 15th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
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It's more like Hero than house of flying daggers, but it is more mainstream than either of those and more military I think
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From:obsessive24
Date:June 15th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Huh, coincidence. I just finished watching it last night.

It's not the best movie ever made, but I found it interesting how well it pushed certain cultural buttons. Having grown up with these stories from the Romance of Three Kingdoms, it's a part of my heritage? Subconsious? that I don't get to explore very often and it was an incredible thrill to see the personalities and certain stories in my childhood stories brought to life. The battle of Red Cliff is a huge deal in the Chinese consciousness, as are the characters of Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu and all the rest, and I thought the film tapped into that very well.
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From:communicator
Date:June 15th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
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Right, I see. Obviously, I don't know the cultural background at all. In that case I can see why it was told so straight-up. The audience have a context within which the story has resonance, which I am lacking altogether - like a Robin Hood or King Arthur story.
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From:obsessive24
Date:June 15th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. :) It differs from the likes of Hero or Flying Daggers in that it's mainly a historical story rather than pure fiction, though obviously with certain embellishments as it was told through history (and unfortunately some further embellishments that the film added itself), but it's something that anyone who grew up in a Chinese culture would be very familiar with. I was trying to think of an apt example in western culture and agree that King Arthur or Robin Hood is probably the closest that you'd get.

Interesting side note - my Merlin vid, Red, got quite a big reception (by my standards, anyway) around fandom on LJ and thereabouts. And yet when I posted it to a Chinese-based Merlin comm, it basically sank without a trace. The reasons for that can be many, but I think one key reason was because the vid played to the larger context of the Arthurian legend, which resonated emotionally with the western audience but pretty much completely missed its mark with the Chinese audience, who simply didn't have that kind of cultural context. I guess the same can be said in reverse here.

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