Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France/Japan/China, 1998. Shin Corporation, Canal+, New Wave Company, Beijing Film Studio, Nippon Film Development and Finance, China Film Co-Production Corporation, Pricel. Screenplay by Kaige Chen, Peigong Wang. Cinematography by Fei Zhao. Produced by Kaige Chen, Satoru Iseki, Shirley Kao. Music by Jiping Zhao. Production Design by Qi Lin, Juhua Tu. Costume Design by Qiuping Huang, Mo Xiaomin. Film Editing by Xinxia Zhou. Cannes Film Festival 1998. National Board of Review Awards 1999. Toronto International Film Festival 1998.
Sumptuous, stunning epic film by director Chen Kaige, who surpasses his world acclaimed Farewell, My Concubine by creating a more evenly paced and densely textured film. Set in second-century Asia, when seven separate kingdoms made up what is now China, it tells the story of Qin leader King Ying Zheng, whose goal it is to connect the seven kingdoms and become the first emperor of a unified China. He can’t help but let greed and powerlust get in the way of what starts off as civil and proper proceedings, and a Shakespearean tragedy akin to Kurosawa’s Ran is born. It all starts off when the King’s wife (the always captivating Li Gong) devises an expert plan: Since the Yan kingdom is one that is difficult to take over, why not release the captive Prince of Yan and send him home with the Queen as hostage so that when the Prince sends an assassin (played by Kaige himself) as retaliation for his imprisonment, King Ying Zheng will have an excuse to overtake the Yan kingdom? The Queen’s wish is to avoid as much bloodshed as possible; the king makes this promise but doesn’t quite keep it. Some might be a little upset by the violence in the film, but it is above all things a great tale of betrayal and revenge.