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4.1 out of 5 stars67
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 6 October 2010
This is a beautifully shot film that will open up the life of one of history's greats to many more people. Chow Yun Fat puts in a superb performance as Confucius and the cinematography is spectacular. Although on the Cine-Asia label, who are renowned for their martial arts catalogue in particular,this is categorically not a martial arts films - although the battle scenes will I am sure, please those that enjoy immense scale action. This is definitely a film for those that are in to Chinese cinema art and that want to be entertained whilst finding out more about history, philosophy and Confucianism.
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This is a very lovingly produced version of the life of Confucius ranging from his roles in politics (including the Chinese pleasure in crafty military ruses) through to his wanderings with his faithful disciples to his return to his homeland. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the film but it certainly gave a strong narrative line as the exponent of civility of government is variously honoured, cheated and rejected by the ruling elites of the Warring States. It is not a short film and will not please those who look for Chinese cinema to be mostly wire-work and sword play.
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This was actually a very enjoyable movie to watch, being cinematically lush in the manner we have come to expect from big-budget Chinese cinema productions. True to the blurb, the large scale action sequences were suitably epic, but refreshingly brief, and not predominating over the political intrigue which gave the film, at least to one not too conversant with the relevant history, a satisfying sense of intelligent authenticity. As a movie it was clearly flawed once we moved into the period of Confucius' exile, which was depicted as a succession of rather loosely connected, and possibly over-sentimentalised episodes. In fairness it is hard to know how this part of Confucius' life could be turned into a convincingly unified narrative, but something more artful than this could surely have been contrived. Nonetheless, as I say, I enjoyed the movie and felt myself to have come away somewhat educated and, all things considered, was prepared to credit it with being a four star experience. However, once I started zooting about on the web investigating the background of Confucius' life, I was subject to a sense of deflation accompanied by a feeling of tedious inevitability. Search as I might I could find no mention of Confucius directing vast battles, perpetrating elaborate military ruses, or engaging in high-stakes archery contests at any point in his career. All my reading suggested that Confucius was strictly a man of ideas and letters, devoted to moral conduct and its application to politics. I can find no trace of the Hollywood style action hero this film attempts to portray him as. So, another star gone - three stars.

An interesting aside is the PRC Government's controversially heavy-handed support for this movie in its competition with Avatar at the time of their simultaneous release. Considering that during the Cultural Revolution the party line was that Confucian philosophy stood entirely discredited, it is interesting to ponder the significance of his present rehabilitation, and how hopefully it bodes for the eventual ethical orientation of the newly emerging superpower. Viewed uncharitably this film is Confucian bubble-gum for the masses, but its core ethics are entirely sound, and as such, it just might be the interpretation of the Confucian legend that modern China needs to hear right now.
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on 16 March 2011
In spite of only giving this 3 stars, I'm not saying it's a bad film. It's just I think it could be a lot better with a slightly different treatment, e.g. a director's cut.

As stated elsewhere here, some of the subtitles - even though they convey very important historical information and signpost milestone plot moments - appear on the screen for only a fraction of time. If you are not already familiar with the historical Confucius (I'm not) then this is a real wasted opportunity to let the film convey this information, without the need for independent research (or the need to watch a different film).

Still, what's here is sensitively handled. By which I mean, the film is not all balletic, epic fight sequences that I worried it might be (though there are one or two) and is mainly about politics and character development. Chow Yun Fat is great in it too. Not overplayed. Not overdone. A very nice, respectful, believable rendition.

As I say, I feel I missed a lot of important information throughout, so the film didn't have the impact for me that it might have. Lastly, I found the text put up right at the end of the film, kind of like an epilogue tribute to the legacy of Confucius, was a little overdone. It's not that it was factually incorrect (on which I'm not fit to judge) but rather that the film had already left me with a positive appreciation of Confucius of my own, so I found this a bit forced/jarring.

Lastly, the Blu-ray presentation is good. Crisp and colourful images and good sound (in the original language).
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on 1 May 2014
A lavish and at times epic movie of landscapes and armies, scholars and generals, horses and robes. Chow Yun Fat is a million miles away from his 20th century gangster roles as he plays the sage and educator whose principles of civility in government shaped Chinese society forever. Set circa 500BC, the story of Confucius and his followers is probably well-known to anyone from China, but I was as ignorant as a peasant in the fields. To me, Confucius is the mythical wise man who writes all the pithy sayings in the fortune cookies. Apparently he was a jolly clever and incredibly principled man whose skills with words and intelligent ruling made him the most famous teacher of all time.

Okay, so that's the background, but you have to know if the movie is any good. It has excellent performances, magnificent costumes, cinematography equal to the extraordinary landscapes and beautiful locations and a storyline that does not suffer any glaring holes or impenetrable twists, well almost. It is a long story, there is a long life to be portrayed. Great changes are affecting the lands that make up China, with this being known as the "Warring States Period" you can probably guess that battles will feature. Confucius, known here as Kong Zi, starts off in Lu, but ends up travelling to Wei, Song, Qi and all connecting stations as he leads his followers around China. This can get rather confusing, or just rather tedious, depending on your mood. Watching this on Amazon Instant Video I found it necessary to skip back several times after finding myself snoring and waking up to find Chow Yun Fat had aged another ten years.

As long as you approach this in the right frame of mind - a keen interest in something that resembles history - rather than seeking a bit of wire-fu smash-and-bash and blood-letting, you may find this film rewarding. Given Chinese cinema's continuation of China's willingness to re-write history, the experienced scholars amongst you may recoil in horror at any anachronisms or flaws in the story... I wouldn't know if it is right or wrong. The story of Confucius and Director Mei Hu's interpretation certainly made me want to spend a few minutes on Wiki looking up this amazing figure. As a biopic of a famous person, it does a solid job, helped by a big budget and stunning visuals. Great performances all around.
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on 8 May 2011
Although I was aware of the film, it had gone under my radar as it was not one of my top priorities to see.but when purchasing other films of a similar nature, it sprung forth and I am quite an admirer of Chow Yun -Fat as an actor...Crouching Tiger I thought it might be worth watching and Confucius seemed a more meaty role ,so I was intrigued to see how they portrayed him and whether it could be considered an epic.
The film commences with his rise to Justice minister in the Kingdom of Lu, a reward for diverting the assassination of the King and preventing the Kingdom been seized by the King of Qi..jealousy from other ministers forces Confucius ( or Kong Qiu as he is known in the film ) into exile, so he and his disciples wonder the land teaching and looking for shelter and a place to settle..Confucius and his disciples end up destitute and struggling to survive. However, the very person who forced his exile, the Prime Minister of Lu is dying, and they face attack from their neighbours. Confucius agrees to return home, but on the condition he is not sought for advise on politics or military strategy and that he can be left to his books and teaching and so the film ends with him sitting in this library surrounded by all his works..and you look and think wow.
So was this film epic? Well there were large battle scenes between the neighbouring kingdoms and the production sets looked grand ...though not on the scale of hero...and that for me is where it ends. I don't know any of the previous films by the director Mei Hu, apparently this film did pick up an award,
For me this was a watered down sanitised more biographical account ,which left me with no lasting impression and made reviewing it very difficult. Yes Chow Yun -Fat looked convincing as Confucius but that is the extent ( for me anyway) as to the depth of this great man of history...not the fault of the actor but the script which he was handed.
An opportunity to show the world a lasting and memorable portrait of probably one of the greatest philosophers of all time wasted.
Too much emphasis was placed on the waring kingdoms, and very little on the teachings of this great man, yes there were token saying laced in the script..but at the end of the film, I was left disappointed..This should have been a film of magnitude, that could have gone down in cinematic history..I had hoped that I would learn more about the man ,his teaching...I wanted to see more inter action between him and his disciples....this film should have given me a thirst for knowledge, and should have engaged my mind and been thought provoking ..It should have educated me and helped make me wiser..that for me is true entertainment.
What a shame that one of Chen Kaige, , Ang Lee or Wong Kar-Wai had not directed , I can't help feel we would then have been left with a master piece and a film of great merit and Chow Yun Fat's portrayal as Confucius would have been hailed as one of the best performances.

Subtitles both Mandarin and English got confusing at times and the print went very small..which made film hard to follow at times.
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on 29 August 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The insight into ancient Chinese life was fascinating and the lead actors were exceptional.
Best of all the subtitles were large and bright enough to read.
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on 11 October 2010
For a Western audience this film has the disadvantage of being in Chinese with English sub-titles. Moreover the subtitles are quite small and hard to read at times. This makes it a bit hard to work out who everyone is, but as the film progresses the characters become clearer. The filming struck me as imaginative. The location shots use the vast distances and dramatic landscapes to very good effect. Lasting a little over 2 hours, this is a film well worth watching.
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on 26 June 2011
Chow Yun-Fat gives a wonderfully rich and full bodied portrayal of the godfather of China in this thought provoking and emotive film. We see Confucius grow in stature and how his rise gave way to jealousy and his ultimate exile in his own land.
The cast gel well and the film score is beautiful and really compliments the story.
Battle scenes are well done but not spectacular but its in the drama that this film excels.
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on 3 May 2012
Confucius called in this film Kong Ze is played by Chow Yun-Fat. The actor brings to screen a great deal of gravitas. Chow Yun-Fat manages to portray Confucius with a great deal of dignity.
Unfortunately he is battling against a film that couldn't make up its mind. For a film about a great man which is meant to portray both his history AND his philosophy it did neither.
We jump straight into the film where half of Confucius life is already gone, we see nothing of what made the man.
Cine Asia label who made the film are best known for action films and as such decided to fill the film with a action sequences. Admittedly the cinematography is excellent but they tended to miss the man himself.
Chow Yun-Fat follows the Confucian way himself, it enabled him to bring a great deal to the film. Frankly he carries the film, what could he have done with a better vehicle.

All told it could have done with half an hour cut from it to make an action film or the same added to make a decent biography. As it is it sits in the Half-and-Half territory and does neither.

As with the other reviewers I had problems with the subtitles.
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