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The Banquet BR (UK)

Old 04-18-08, 02:53 PM
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The Banquet BR (UK)



Via the Times:

Metrodome have announced the UK Blu-ray Disc release of The Banquet on 2nd June 2008. Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Banquet is a visually spectacular and emotionally charged journey about a fight for power, and the quest for revenge. Unfulfilled in her royal boudoir, Empress Wan (Zhang Ziyi) harbours forbidden desires for her stepson Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu) who stays away from the palace favouring a life of studying the arts.

But his quiet life is soon disturbed after the sudden death of the Emperor and the immediate succession of his devious brother Li (Ge You). A troop of soldiers are dispatched to assassinate the young Prince Wu Luan. With danger never far away, the Prince must decide whether to fight for his place as ruler or to accept his fate under Li. But as the politics of the situation threaten to erupt into ferocious combat, the motivation of all involved must be called into question - and the Prince’s decision will have consequences that will reverberate throughout the entire Empire.

The Banquet is directed by Feng Xiaogang (Assembly) and features action choreography by Yuen Woo-ping.

All features are TBC, though all extras from the DVD release are expected to be carried over. These include a making-of and the original trailer.
Variety:
Though the Bard isn't listed in the credits, shades of "Hamlet" -- and even more, of "Macbeth" -- hang heavy over "The Banquet," a dark costumer of Chinese courtly intrigue in which the production design too often overpowers the protags. A big career swerve for Mainland helmer Feng Xiaogang ("A World Without Thieves"), after a decade of ironic comedy hits, this visually opulent but stately and stygian drama looks to be a tough sell beyond specialist venues, even in Asia and with Ziyi Zhang's name attached. Trimming of the two-hour-plus running time could help marginally.

Auds not up to the mark on their Shakespeare needn't worry, as script only uses the barest framework of "Hamlet," and even diminishes the title role. In making the Gertrude character into a leading player alongside King Claudius, and a venomous one at that, it's also equally infused with the spirit of "Macbeth."

As well as for Feng, picture is a sizable gamble for Beijing production house Huayi Brothers and the Mainland industry in general. Latter has become increasingly dependant on big budget spectacles, and another opulent costume drama, Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower," is due soon. "Banquet's" tab is reportedly around 150 million yuan ($18 million), big by Chinese standards though less than half of "Flower's" reported figure.

Crew includes several talents from international hits, including action director Yuen Wo-ping ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), p.d. Tim Yip (ditto) and composer Tan Dun (ditto, plus "Hero"). Yip's massive, vaulted sets and funereal colors -- deep blacks, plus shades of reds and golds -- are impressive in the short term, as is Tan's powerful, barbaric music; but over the long span of 129 minutes, there's not enough relief or variety. Yuen's occasional, brief action scenes lack originality.

First and foremost, "The Banquet" is a tragedy, not an actioner. Setting is the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (A.D. 907-60), a time of royal instability in the north and warring states in the south.

In an unnamed kingdom, there lives Li (Feng regular Ge You, in the Claudius role), who's murdered his brother and become emperor. Li long lusted after his brother's young wife, Wan (Zhang, as Gertrude), whose sexual needs were barely catered for during her marriage; but she only has eyes for her stepbrother, Wu Luan (Daniel Wu, a kind of Hamlet).

Li sends soldiers south to kill Wu Luan, who was banished there by the original emperor. In a memorable set piece -- set in a multi-tiered bamboo theater in a forest -- that mixes action and theatrical mime (with players wearing masks), Wu Luan fights off his assassins and heads north to seek revenge on Li.

Opening reels stress the sensuality of Wan and brutality of Li as both engage in a slow power waltz. Wan finally agrees to marry Li and become empress, but at the coronation party Wu Luan and his troupe mime a drama in which a king is murdered by poison in the ear.

Enraged, Li banishes Wu Luan, much to the distress of Qing Nu (Zhou Xun) who loves him and the jealousy of Wan.

When Li decides to throw a banquet for his ministers, Wu Luan returns just when Wan is also planning to murder Li. Qing Nu's father also has his own plans.

Final half-hour, set during the banquet, is certainly gripping, as the pieces come together and slaughter of Jacobean proportions ensues. Till then, however, pic only comes alive spasmodically, not helped by the principals' slow, pregnant delivery of their lines, lack of acting chemistry (normally a strength of Feng's pics), and the unremittingly gloomy look. Even when the action goes outside, Feng and lenser Zhang Li still maintain the heavy color chiaroscuro.

Zhou, in a relatively small role, grows in her character as the film progresses, though her more everyday speaking voice is at odds with the elevated tone adopted by other principals. Ge is fine as the manipulative Li, and Hong Kong thesp Wu adequate in the slimly drawn part of Wu Luan.

Main problem is Zhang, who carries herself with all the bearing of a power-hungry, lovelorn empress but doesn't project the necessary charisma of an evil queen. Role requires a more experienced, older actress to fill the screen, even though her perf is OK on a purely technical level.
More than one option

Camera (Technicolor prints, widescreen), Zhang Li; editor, Liu Miaomiao; music, Tan Dun; piano, Lang Lang; vocals, Teng Geer, Zhou Xun, Zhang Liangying; production-costume designer, Tim Yip; sound (Dolby Digital), Wang Danrong; action choreography, Yuen's Stunt Team; visual effects supervisor, Phil Jones; visual effects producer, Jiang Yanming. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (non-competing), Sept. 2, 2006. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Gala Presentations.) Running time: 129 MIN.
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Old 04-19-08, 11:44 AM
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I loved this film - any word on whether the BDR is region coded or not?
Old 04-19-08, 12:50 PM
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Metrodome do not code their BR discs so this one should also be region-free.

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Old 04-21-08, 09:57 AM
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what's up with the running time the HK disc I own states it's 131min, is the 129 the PAL speed rt... incedently, the region 1, retitled version states it's running time is 126 minutes.
Old 04-21-08, 01:39 PM
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The BBFC has approved the film without any cuts with the original 130m 47s in tact.

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