Utpal Borpujari

July 28, 2009

DVD Review: The Phantom Lover / House of Flying Daggers

The Phantom Lover; dir Ronny Yu; Shemaroo World Cinema / UTV World Movies; Rs 349

Remake of the 1937 film “Song of the Midnight”, this 1995 Chinese film (with English subtitles) is a tearjerker with memorable music gives the viewer a window to Chinese melodrama. With whiffs of both Phantom of the Opera and Romeo & Juliet present in the storyline, this 99-minute film opens with a theatre group arriving at a dilapidated structure that once was a theatre which was burnt down along with its main performer by a cruel opponent in love.

The protagonist, disfigured in the incident, still lives unknown to the outside world, and the film takes us back in time to tell his story. Set in the 1940s China, it tells us the story of Song Dan Ping (played by Leslie Cheung), a popular theatre actor, who falls in love with the daughter of a powerful official whose father had promised her hand to the son of another official.

The film takes the viewer through the tragic life journey of the protagonists who unite at the end, but it comes after both pay a heavy price. A film for those who love to go “sniff sniff” in their hankies.

House of Flying Daggers; dir Zhang Yimou; Shemaroo World Cinema / UTV World Movies; Rs 349

Among globally the most-popular Chinese filmmakers, Zhang Yimou mounts another visual extravaganza through this 2004 film after his earlier “Hero”. A story of love, betrayal, duty and passion, it is a film where the story often takes the backseat as the director mounts some extraordinary martial arts and dance sequences that leave the viewer spellbound even while realizing the unreal nature of all this.

Like in his own “Hero” and Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”, this film too is more of a visual journey than an emotional one, though the storyline takes one back to 859 A.D., when the Tang dynasty was in its deathbed.

Starring Japanese superstar Takeshi Kaneshiro and China’s Zhang Ziyi, it is about the official hunt for members of an underground resistance movement. The drama gets a push-on with supposed antagonists falling in love even as one of them is assigned to deceit the other. Whether that finally happens or not forms the climax of the film. But forget the story and feast on the fantastically-choreographed and magnificently-shot martial arts sequences, particularly the grand fight in a bamboo grove.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 26-07-2009)


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