House of Flying Daggers

Extraordinary Adventure

There is a scene in House of Flying Daggers where Jin, played by Andy Lau, is being attacked by one of “the general’s” men. He is armed only with a bow and arrow and there is no good shot because his attacker is carrying a shield big enough to hid his entire body behind it. The bodies of the rest of the general’s men lie strewn about on the field of battle, their shields were of no help to them. And yet we the audience are not exactly sure how Jin is going to get the arrow through the shield of the man coming toward him. The solution is, like the rest of the House of flying Daggers, both ingenious and practical. He fires, but the arrow seems to be off its mark. It appears to be headed for one of the already dead soldiers. The oncoming attacker appears to be safe until Jin’s arrow bounces off the deceased soldier’s shield and is deflected into the oncoming soldier knocking him off his feet, deftly circumnavigating the soldier’s now useless shield. This is a scene that is indicative of The House of Flying Daggers as a whole.

If I had to give characters in martial arts films one piece of advice it would be this: Stay out of the bamboo forest! Nothing good ever happens there.

Released in 2004 this movie hit at the height of America’s brief obsession with a genre called wuxia. Which basically means “awesome kung fu” in English. The trend was started by an earlier film on our list the brilliantly titled Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Daggers was directed by Yimou Zhang who is a famous foreign director famous for directing famous foreign films. One of which (Ju Dou) I actually saw in film class once, which basically goes to show you just how useless film class is. The one thing people always say about Yimou Zhang is that he has a fantastic gift for color. Which amazingly, is true this time and it is put on display in many sequences in Flying Daggers. And even more amazing is that he doesn’t fill the screen up so much with color that it overpowers the rest of the film.

Here Yimou Zhang displays his gift of inexplicably long sleeves as well as his eye for color.

The plot is fairly basic. Two warriors are escaping back to the secret fortress of the Flying Daggers, which is basically a band of rebels who rob from the rich and give to the poor. Sound familiar? Even though the plot is simple there are plenty of twists and turns. The two warriors are a man and a woman so is it any wonder they fall in love? Though one of them is blind they are both incredible masters of martial arts, which is good for us, because just as you think the movie is getting bogged down in the love angle. The action cuts in and takes the film for a dance. The ending is a tad over-dramatic, but the direction is crisp and the action is some of the best-choreographed work I’ve seen, even better than the aforementioned Crouching Tiger, even better than the Matrix, but still one below Jackie Chan.

Even though the ending is a tad over the top, it takes place in a blinding snowstorm thereby totally redeeming itself!

Next up … 73!

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