Film critics are beginning to groan about this being an interesting but less-than-satisfying year for movies. I’ve got to agree. Usually, the Oscar season reveals a handful of movies that are worth revisiting time and time again. This year, there’s been one disappointment after another, with only a scattered few titles worthy of multiple viewings. And most of those are still significantly flawed.
Usually, there’s at least one film that has me shouting from the rooftops at the end of the year. This year, there are a handful I’m recommending again and again, but they’re not the kind of films that make me revisit my all-time-favorites lists.
One of those “keepers” is Hero, which is definitely the most enthralling film of the year visually. Its politics are controversial and its characters are more symbolic than specific, and thus while it remains thrilling in repeated viewings, those thrills are primarily aesthetic and intellectual, not at all emotional.
So it was with great hope and anticipation that I approached House of Flying Daggers for a special advance screening at the Seattle Art Museum, hosted by Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, and marking the release of the new volume of film reviews by the folks at the world-famous Scarecrow Video.
My review will appear at Christianity Today Movies soon. For now, all I can say is that the film delivers on the promise of Hero‘s spellbinding visuals, strikes a much more comical tone (for an hour, anyway), brings the martial arts scenes even deeper into the realm of dance, and features the strongest performance of Zhang Ziyi’s career. (This time, she’s not a whining, adolescent ninny like she was in Crouching Tiger and Hero.)
Suffice it to say that I prefer Hero, but despite its last-act flaws, House of Flying Daggers is still well worth seeing for its performances, the controlled chaos of its battles, and its phenomenal visual spectacle.
The best thing to know before you see it: Its Japanese title is The Lovers, which is a much, much better title. The title House of Flying Daggers misleads the audience about where their focus should be.