Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Promise

aka Mo Gik; Wu Ji
Chen Kaige, 2005, China (8.0*)

Though not Kaige's best epic adventure romance, certainly one worth seeing. This fairy tale of a princess begins with a little girl stealing a bun for her dead mother and having a goddess descend to make a deal with her which will make her "a woman men will fight wars over." We then see her adult life filled with romantic intrigues and a love triangle based on mistaken identity, as she is courted by two kings and a slave.

This is full of magical images, similar to Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), yet somehow lacks the powerful artistry of that film; the story is just not as original or poetic. However, the epic look and feel are here, as well as romance, martial arts, fantasy settings, and ancient warfare, all done with terrific CGI effects, which makes this another Chinese epic war romance a "must see" for fans of this genre. They can usually make films like this for $5-10 million, so luckily fans get several per year of this caliber, while in the west it's more like one per decade at a cost above 100 million.

Chen Kaige excels at epic films, such as Farewell My Concubine (1993) and The Emperor and the Assassin (1998), yet his best, most rewarding film for me is the small, intimate father-son story Together (2002).


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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