Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NZ International Film Festival: Red Cliff

God I love John Woo, with his massive cast of thousands he manages to narrate the multi-perspective collective view of a 5000 year old culture in a way that makes the western individualist cinematic narrative seem shallow.

His movies are like a multi-board Vulcan chess game with political Machiavellian machinations and Art of War quotations. The grace with which he films and the sheer choreography required to move that many people on screen around is a technical rubix cube that Woo never loses his place in as he spins and re-aligns shot after shot into a seamlessly completed image rich story.

It’s the Chinese Empire again, there is a dictatorial Prime Minister who after quelling Northern rebellions is now eyeing up future enemies who need crushing now. The young and nervous Emperor weakly agrees to give his ambitious General of a Prime Minister a shot at beating the snot out of the two Southern power blocks who have so far resisted the authoritarian rule used to crush the North. I’m guessing with China’s level of censorship all political criticism has to be couched within an historic context as the resulting plot and message of resisting authoritarian rule while remaining loyal has far more to do with the social friction currently rubbing modern day China against a one party state.

Woo mixes moments of quiet gentle grace with cheesy martial arts in a way few others could credibly get away with. There’s something for everyone, Horse shunting, in-flight pigeon cam and semi-erotic bandage wrapping. Red Cliff is another triumph from a Director who has set the benchmark for vast cinema.


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