Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 20 November 2009

‘Red Cliff’: A Visual Symphony


A landmark Chinese film has finally made it to American shores, although in truncated form. (What else is new?) The costume drama / epic historical film Red Cliff, which chronicles the legends surrounding the famous Battle of Chibi of the Han Dynasty in 208 A.D., was directed by legendary director John Woo.

Tony Leung & Wei Zhao

Tony Leung & Wei Zhao

It isn’t playing here yet, but I will see any film with Chinese actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai in it. You may remember him from Zhang Yimou’s visually stunning martial arts drama Hero, the lyrically beautiful In the Mood for Love, its surreal companion 2046, and Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.

The film also boasts the beautiful actress Wei Zhao, who has starred in the action movie So Close as one of a pair of sisters-turned-assassins, in the comedy-kungfu hit Shaolin Soccer as Stephen Chow’s love interest, and in the epic drama Warriors of Heaven and Earth.

Red Cliff was originally released as two films in Asia totaling 5 hours, but the American release has been whittled to a bare 2-and-a-half-hour single movie. (Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern says you’ll be wanting more.) Much has been made (see below) about this film being, to date, the most expensive ever made in China. True, but perhaps more telling, it is also the highest grossing film ever in China, as well. The film is in “limited release” here, so good luck in finding it.

Red Cliff

Joe Morgenstern has called this film “a legendary filmmaker’s visual symphony.” Certainly the trailer hints at an astoundingly beautiful and eye-poppingly huge epic. Failing finding it in the theaters, maybe Blu-Ray will do it some justice. (See below for excerpts from Morgenstern’s review, a link to the HD trailer, and information on findingRed Cliff in four different versions and/or formats at Amazon.com.)

 

Red CliffRed Cliff  [Chi Bi]

METACRITIC RATING: 75

Starring: Tony Leung , Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Zhao
Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama | War
Directed by: John Woo
Running Time: 148 minutes
Language: Mandarin
Rated:  R for sequences of epic warfare

Red Cliff opens as power hungry Prime Minister-turned-General Cao Cao seeks permission from the Han dynasty Emperor to organize a southward-bound mission designed to crush Liu Bei and Sun Quan, the two troublesome warlords who stand in his way. As the expedition gets underway, Cao Cao’s troops rain destruction on Liu Bei’s army, forcing him into retreat. Liu Bei’s military strategist Zhuge Liang knows that the rebels’ only hope for survival is to form an alliance with rival warlord Sun Quan, and reaches out to Sun Quan’s trusted advisor, war hero Zhou Yu. Vastly outnumbered by Cao Cao’s brutal, fast-approaching army, the warlords band together to mount a heroic campaign — unrivaled in history — that changes the face of China forever. A massive hit in Asia and the most expensive Asian film production of all time, Red Cliff is a breathtaking war epic that marks the triumphant return of John Woo. (Magnolia Pictures)

Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern (90):
Set in the twilight of the Han Dynasty, Red Cliff lends new meaning to the notion of “Baby on Board” when a fearless swordsman plunges into battle with an infant strapped on his back. This action spectacular, directed by the masterful John Woo, also lends new meaning to the notion of epic. As the most expensive movie ever made in China, it’s certainly immense and, even in the truncated (and sometimes slightly frayed) form shown here, quite long — 2.5 hours, rather than five hours for the two-part version shown to Asian audiences. Yet the immensity encompasses such variety, subtlety and intimacy that you may find yourself yearning for more.
Red CliffIn one example of many, two distinguished warriors meet to decide whether to join forces against the tyrannical emperor. Once they discover that they’re both musicians, they signify their decision by playing a duet on traditional stringed instruments. In a lesser film the duet might be no more than a pretty gesture. In this one it’s a daringly extended interlude with as much dramatic development, in its way, as Mr. Woo has devoted to some of the intricately conceived battles, or to an astonishing sequence in which a homing pigeon leads the camera on an eye-popping survey of the dictator’s troops. Red Cliff is a legendary filmmaker’s visual symphony.

__________________________________________

Notes from Grover:

Watch the HD Trailer for Red Cliff below. Below the Youtube box for the trailer, you’ll find links for the various versions and DVD formats in which Red Cliff is available. Click on any of them to see further information about it at Amazon.com.

Red Cliff-U.S.-Blu-Ray
U.S. Theatrical Version
1 Part
Blu-Ray
148 minutes
Red Cliff-Int'l.-Blu-Ray
Original Int’l. Version
Parts I & II
Blu-Ray
288 minutes
Red Cliff-U.S.-DVD
U.S. Theatrical Version
1 Part
Blu-Ray
148 minutes
Red Cliff-Int'l.-DVD
Original Int’l. Version
Parts I & II
Blu-Ray
288 minutes


Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: