Shi Mian Mai Fu [House Of Flying Daggers] (2004)

(On DVD, August 2005) Taken by itself, this is perfectly entertaining, visually exciting piece of cinema. Unfortunately, it comes on the heels of both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and unfortunately covers much of the same territory in much of the same fashion. Slightly pretentious, far too long, maybe a bit too deliberate in how it tries to distinguish between every scene, House Of Flying Daggers seems too familiar to have an impact. The twists in the tale also seem too deliberate to feel interesting: at the end, the only things missing are an alien and a split personality. And that’s truly too bad, because House Of Flying Daggers shows an ambitious aesthetic sense that puts most other films to shame. In trying to figure out how this film may seem too familiar even as dozens of Jackie Chan film can all have their individual appeal, it may be useful to consider the element of fun: Chan, at least in his best early-nineties period, broadly appealed through stunts and easy jokes: Yimou Zhang, on the other hand, has evacuated all humour out of his film, trying for high-end romantic drama with a tragic twist. There very well be a limit to the number of films appealing to that particular corner of the mindspace: Too bad that House Of Flying Daggers had to end there third.

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