Thursday Movie Picks by Wandering through the Shelves returns. According to the theme of the week, three to five movies are picked and shared with the reason. Should anyone be interested in joining in, feel free to visit the main page here.
This week’s theme is: Ancient World – movies set around 3600 BC – 500 AD. Well, I suppose there will be many first-civilization movies around this Thursday. However, I’ve restricting myself to pick only three movies about ancient China. Why China? Because I grew up with wuxia and jiangshi movies, serials and comics. Selecting three movies that are eligible for that ‘period of time’ isn’t an easy task, since there are myriads of movies about ancient China but from different eras (the country itself has a long ‘movie-material’ history). However, this is my picks.
01. Hero (2002, Zhang Yimou)
Set: Ancient China – 227 BC
Hero is an idyllic wuxia film set in pre-unified China, during the unification by King of Qin. Under Zhang Yimou the auteur (pre-Great Wall), Hero becomes a quintessential definition of why martial art is called ‘art.’ The storytelling is beautiful – almost like Chinese poetry – adorned with idyllic visuals and stunning battle choreography. If you’re seeking for an answer why Chinese warriors in wuxia films take the warrior road, this might be a perfect answer.
02. Red Cliff (2008, John Woo)
Set: Ancient China – 208-209 AD
Based on a fragment of Chinese greatest literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Red Cliff centers on an event called the Battle of Changban (literally means ‘Red Cliff’). Presented in a 288-minutes epos, this John Woo’s masterpiece captures the essence of Three Kingdoms as a colossal lore. The production is massive and the acting is brilliant. Yet, it’s the script that wins over everything. It’s a nearly 5-hour masterpiece full of politic intrigues, battle strategy and personal matters culminating in an unforgettable battle. It’s definitely one of the best films about ancient China.
03. Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008, Daniel Lee)
Set: Ancient China – 200-218 AD
Released in the same year as Red Cliff, Resurrection of the Dragon almost had no chance to fare further than its contender. It also takes inspiration from an element of Romance of the Three Kingdoms; however, if Red Cliff depicts one crucial moment, Resurrection draws inspiration from one of the important character – Zhao Zilong a.k.a. Zhao Yun. Known for his combat skills, military tactics, and good-looking appearance, Resurrection captures the persona of the general in brilliant performance by Andy Lau. It feels more personal, but if you’re familiar with the subject matter, it’s a very intriguing story.