Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Chao Deng

QuickView: Shadow (2018)

“Without the real, there can be no shadow. A principle no one’s understood.”


At least internationally, Chinese director Zhang Yimou is best known for a pair of visually stunning historical wuxia films that formed the middle of his career: Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. His return to the genre is assured but with a fresh aesthetic that avoids feeling like a retreat. Where Hero was filled with impeccably controlled vibrantly saturated colour (begging for a new HDR master), Shadow is desaturated to the point of being essentially monochrome, moody and ethereal. Through the film’s slow hour, laden with political intrigue, the only hints of colour come through fleshtones, drawing attention to faces and hands. In the violent city battle that follows, dark crimson splashes across water, the film’s ever-present rain coating outdoor scenes in a misty film grain. The titular “shadow” is the film’s central conceit — a man raised to be the double of the city’s renowned commander, taking his place when he becomes injured while the commander undermines the cowardly king and plots war from the (literal) shadows. Shadow‘s central theme is dualism — from the commander and his shadow to the rival cities to the contrasting fire and water fighting styles — heightened through the ornate black and white costuming and set dressing, most notably the yin-yang taijitu design of the two duelling arenas. Although poetic in tone and texture, it cannot live up to the high bar Yimou set in Hero, particularly in respect of its martial arts choreography.


QuickView: The Mermaid (2016)

“What on Earth is more important than money?”

Liu Xuan

This Chinese blockbuster is a contemporary ecological fairytale about a mermaid who is sent to kill the rich property developer threatening her species’ home but finds herself falling for him. With Stephen Chow at the helm, it is gloriously silly and filled with fun creative flourishes. Sure, the story is ridiculous and its message about ecology and wealth (although apt for modern China) has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but ultimately it is the characters that make this an enjoyable ride. Yun Lin sells the title role particularly well. The Mermaid doesn’t stand up next to Chow’s masterpiece, Kung Fu Hustle, but it is still a worthwhile addition.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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