Film4: Monday 12 October, 6.55pm
Jet Li impressively impassive as the ophaned warrior Nameless,summoned by the king of Qin to recount how he was able to defeat the three mighty assassins – Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky – sent tokill Qin’s warlord. “Remain 100 paces from his majesty,” Li is instructed, “or you will be executed.” And this after a thorough strip search. Zhang Yimou’s magnificent martial arts extravaganza is a nartful conflation of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Ran, thrilling and funny.
In sumptuous tableaux of red and gold, blue and green, the screen is filled with extraordinary images – swarming hordes of soldiers, artillery-like attacks by the army’s archers, balletic duelsin rain-spattered courtyards and autumnal glades. Awash with coloursso balmy and vibrant, this wondrous spectacle is like a salve for the eyes (the camerawork’s by Chris Doyle). Jet Li’s Nameless, besides being an unreliable narrator, is a swift and accurate swordsman, as killed and acrobatic warrior who cuts through the Zen.
He’s well matched by Infernal Affairs star Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (who memorably appeared with Leung in In the Mood for Love). Crouching tigress Zhang Ziyi doesn’t have a great deal to do as the devoted servant girl Moon. She would be moved centre stage for Zhang Yimou’s next film, the similarly spectacular House of Flying Daggers.
After The Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou changed gear with A Woman,a Gun and a Noodle Shop, his bizarre remake of the Coen brothers’ pulp thriller Blood Simple. Zhang’s new film Coming Home marks a return to the modest political agendas of dramas like Not One Less and The Road Home, the pictures he made following his international breakthrough in 1991 with Raise the Red Lantern.