directed by Zhang Yimou
More heartbreakingly striking that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, more gasp-inducingly beautiful than House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou’s Hero is a quintessential martial arts film in every sense of the word. Operatic, sweeping, moving, Yimou’s film about a warrior’s quest to seek audience with a fearsome emperor is epic in the way a Leone western is epic, in the way a Francis Ford Coppola mob film is epic, in the way a P.T. Anderson film is epic. Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi bring so much to their roles, stifling wellsprings of emotion and energy beneath such wonderful stoicism and sadness. The fight sequences are marvelous, hypnotically beautiful and treacherous dances, performances that echo the fragility of existence. I sound a little sappy here, but it’s warranted, I assure you. The cinematography is superb, thanks to Christopher Boyle, and aside from Unleashed, which I feel best exemplifies Jet Li’s acting prowess, Hero is in all likelihood one of Li’s finest works. Not to be missed. Thanks, Mr. Tarantino, for shelling out a few bob so that Hero could get the stateside release it deserved. It would have been a shame to simply stumble on this gem in the foreign section of the video store (jeez, did he just make a crack about going to the video store? What year is this? Does he think cave people are reading this?).