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I went and saw Hero, that beautiful, but emotionally empty Chinese propaganda film.

There's been a lot of buzz about this film, all of which appears to be in rush of orgasmic ohmyfuckinggodhowgoodisthisfilm, but the reviews never actually seem to say what's good about it, except that it's pretty. Now, I haven't read many of the reviews of the film--I've just heard the buzz, most likely--but what that buzz appears to not be taking into account is that, firstly, it's boring, secondly, it's propaganda, and thirdly, it's really boring.

The problem with Hero is that it's really obvious. The moment Nameless, Jet Li's character, begins to speak, you know it's not the truth. The pacing is the big tip off, but mostly, you'd just have to be a bit on the stupid side not to figure that. You know, then, that there's no real reason to get emotionally invested in the tragic lovers, Broken Sword and Flying Snow, because the way that they died is so obviously not the truth. Just as, when Nameless has finished and the Emperor speaks, you know that the version he tells will not be true. At this stage, you've been in a film for over an hour, waiting for the moment in which the real story begins, and where you can begin to get emotionally invested...

Only to find that the time for that has passed.

By the time the third version--the truth--came out, I just didn't care. Why would I care about watching these people die a-fucking-gain? When the quarrels between the Broken Sword and Flying Snow began for a third time, I yawned, and decided that they should hurry up and die. Having already seem them weep and cry over there deaths previously, I figured that the third one would be no different, and lo! it was not. Also, am I really suppose to look forward to seeing the servant girl, Moon, who screams and dies and gets beaten in each version of the story? The moment her eyes started to water, I groaned and wondered how someone could honestly think doing this to me three times would make the film more interesting?

That's the films real fault. It's boring. There's nothing to care about.

Of course, within that, there is the Government Propaganda. I just loved that. Just what I needed: a film that told me that the country was more important than the individual, and that as soon as a person gave into their individual emotions, and placed them above the country and government, then they would be selfish and ignorant and ultimately die tragically. The Emperor would shed a tear for you as a hundred black clad toadies chanted that you had to be made an example of you Nameless assassin you... and look, if the film had been interesting, maybe I would've forgiven it this. Maybe. This kind of goes outside my person belief system: I think the individual is more important than the Government and the country. It's not a simple division at the point of politics, and I don't ever reckon anything is black and white, but to avoid a long entry about why I think that is wrong, lets just say it's not for me and leave it there. The film is pretty black and white in its portrayal of the Government line, and it's hard to digest, I found. That said, I like experiencing films and books about different cultures than mine, but this is just so heavy handed, and so obviously about giving the Government a voice in a beautifully wrapped candy that it is shifted into being the reason for the film to exist. No party line, no film, basically. Perhaps, of course, the reason why the film has been so embraced by Western countries of late is because Western Governments are all about defending the country and the unified land and not about the individual. The individual is clearly not important in the currently political climate going round, and perhaps Hero is speaking to Western audiences on this level.

It's a lovely thought, isn't it?

But mostly, the film is just boring. Really, really boring, but with a pretty colour scheme.


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Nov. 13th, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
Perhaps, of course, the reason why the film has been so embraced by Western countries of late is because Western Governments are all about defending the country and the unified land and not about the individual. The individual is clearly not important in the currently political climate going round, and perhaps Hero is speaking to Western audiences on this level.

Nah, it's just pretty and tragically romantic.
Nov. 13th, 2004 09:20 pm (UTC)
yeah, i didn't really believe that, either.
Nov. 13th, 2004 09:27 pm (UTC)
h'm. i can see where you're coming from with that.

but i loved it -- because i love stories that are about stories, and perspectives etc. i loved the use of colour in it, and i liked the way that the key/pivotal events, the immutable truths, were present in each version but with different motivations.
Nov. 14th, 2004 02:49 am (UTC)
i must admit, i find the stories that are stories to be a bit problematic for me. for some unknown reason i usually have trouble getting into them. there are exceptions, of course, but...
Nov. 14th, 2004 01:30 pm (UTC)
well, that'll do it every time. if you don't like stories about stories, liking Hero is a big ask, eh? have you read stephen donaldson's "the real story"? it's my ultimate favourite story about perspectives (but only if you don't read the rest of the series that follows).
Nov. 14th, 2004 10:18 pm (UTC)
well, i should add, that what i don't like is stories about stories that are narrated in speech. so, like, one character is sitting on a deck (think HEART OF DARKNESS) and saying, "it was on wednesday..."

that i find hard to get into. for me, the dialogue is all off. something like HERO is not what i classify as a story within a story. rather, it's just a flashback technique, and instead you're running two narratives. different thing, in my mind.

i've never read any donaldson.
Nov. 14th, 2004 10:35 pm (UTC)
very good point. and running a flashback for pretty much the entire length of the movie -- and continuing to flick back to reality and remind you that it's all flashback -- is certainly not a technique commonly performed well.
Nov. 14th, 2004 02:46 am (UTC)
I didn't have a problem with the repetition of the stories, personally. Tres mythic, etc.

I similarly didn't have a problem with the thematics. Pleasant change from the 'it's all about me' message in a lot of modern creative work.

On the other hand, I got bored with all the fighting. Thought it was heavy on the eye-candy and light on character. As for the colour schemes - they're pretty and all, but kinda obvious. For my money, Krzystof Keslowski nails that kinda thing way better than it was done here.
Nov. 14th, 2004 02:51 am (UTC)
apparently there is a three hour version. one of the kids i teach said that the version he watched, a few years back, was endless on the talking... so maybe the characterisation was pumped up.

i agree the colours were obvious, though, but the whole film wasn't working for me so i decided to take what joy i could. that, really, was the eye candy side.
Nov. 14th, 2004 06:38 am (UTC)
It's eye candy. But it's the super expensive top shelf extra goodness brand of eye candy. And there are swords.

Also, I heard the release at cinemas is severely cut. I wonder how much difference it makes.
Nov. 14th, 2004 10:20 pm (UTC)
i've heard, from some of the kids i teach, that the longer version is more talky. as one said, 'it's endless fucking talking.'

of course, he's fifteen. take from that what you will.
Nov. 15th, 2004 12:20 am (UTC)
I saw the dvd version, but I missed the first 15 minutes or so.
Nov. 14th, 2004 10:39 am (UTC)
I will probably rent it so I can stare at Jet Li for a couple of hours. We women, we're so shallow. :-)
Nov. 14th, 2004 10:20 pm (UTC)
i always found him to be kinda ugly, you know. ugly and emotionless. it's what i liked about him in some of the other films.
Nov. 15th, 2004 09:19 am (UTC)
The emotionless I'll give you, though I think it is more on the reserved side. The ugly thing, well, everyone has their own aesthetics. In real life he would be WAY too short for me, but thank God movies aren't real life. :-)
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