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The Banquet  [DVD]
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Bloody historical epic about court intrigue in China's Five Dynasties period, loosely based on Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. The setting is an ancient Chinese kingdom, where malice and treachery rule. The latest turmoil arises with the sudden death of the emperor. Suspicion falls on his ambitious brother Li (You Ge), who takes the throne as well as his brother's young, beautiful wife, Empress Wan (Ziyi Zhang). The only obstacle in his path is his brother's son, Prince Wuluan (Daniel Wu), a melancholy youngster who harbours a sexual longing for his stepmother and has consequently exiled himself to a colony in the wilderness. When the new emperor's ninja assassins reach the colony the prince barely escapes with his life. Returning to the palace, he is at once embroiled in schemes, counterschemes and suspect declarations of love. The film climaxes at a late night banquet where murder is the main dish on the menu...
The world's best choreographer, Yuen Wo-Ping might have topped himself with fight scenes --Hollywood Reporter
Superb, A Spectacular Epic ... Prepare To be Gobsmacked ... Mesmerising --Morning Star
Spectacular ... Sensational Battles ... Stunning --Mail On Sunday --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Don't be put off by the knowledge that it's based around the plot of Hamlet, because you need no knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy this film. it's also not quite the same story -- and definitely not the same characters! In fact the lead character, torn between ambition, love, desire, hatred and fear isn't the young Prince at all...
You will need to concentrate on the plot to enjoy the fine detail and political intrigue of this Tang Dynasty drama. The Emperor is usurped and his brother takes the throne: the young Crown Prince in is immediate danger (although he can't be killed publicly); the queen must decide whether her future lies with the new Emperor or with her old loyalties, and her old lover.
All this intrigue is set against jaw-dropping backgrounds; scenes of breath-taking beauty and simply stunning action sequences. There are some horribly bloody scenes which serve to underline the brutality of the regieme, while the massed ranks of the court bow and scrape in a corordinated and colourful unison. Everywhere you look on the screen is a riot of intricate detail, much of it with an underlying significance to the plot.
By now you've probably guessed that I really can't praise The Banquet highly enough. It captivated us for two hours, and I'll be happy to watch it again in a couple of months. It's a great shame we couldn't see it at the cinema (all that colour and spectacle would be brilliant on a big screen), but this is a film not to be missed whatever format you can see it in.
I'll touch on the aspect ratio thing which has been mentioned before. I was aware of this before watching the film and expected it to have more impact than it eventually did. You're left aware of what the film should have been once the opening credits roll un-cropped and then fade back into fullscreen. Aside from that if I hadn't known about it I doubt I would have noticed while watching so it wasn't as big a deal to me as I thought it would be.
The emperor is dead, his young widow is being seduced by (or is it the other way around?)the emperor's brother who intends to be crowned emperor himself, while the emperor's son has removed himself from the court, and its intrigues, to study the arts. NOTE: not martial arts but music, primarily. From here things kick off in spectacular fashion.
To be honest this is one of the first of these Chinese epics that I've managed to follow the plot of, obviously because it's based on Shakespeare's Hamlet and is a bit of a classic. Couple this with stunning set pieces (and not just battles) and the spectacular Chinese scenery and you have one extremely compelling film.
The violence is over the top and bloody but nothing that will have you hiding behind a cushion. The fight scenes seem slightly toned down than some I've seen though there's still a bit of aerobatics and you won't be cheated of epic set piece battles. I think the fights are grittier and it works.
You already know by now whether you're a fan of this sort of film and if you are you should get your hands on it. If you've tried previous films like Crouching Tiger, Hero or House of Flying Daggers and found the extended superheroesque blade-walking high flying jousting just a bit too much for you then at least give this a rental because it's more toned down and brutal than those previous epics.
The film is very good but not quite excellent. It is beautiful to look at. The score is excellent. The thing that lets it down, and it is something I have noticed in several Chinese films, is that the pace seems to sag about three quarters of the way through. What has been riveting suddenly becomes protracted. It is a shame because there is much to enjoy in this film.
The DVD extras don't amount to a great deal. There is a making of documentary which, although it contains some interesting information on the making of the film, is fairly short.
The film is worth seeing. If you want to see this film on DVD, get the Region 1 version. If your DVD player cannot play Region 1 DVD's, see if you hack it or chip it but don't help promote this shabby practice of selling Region 2 viewers a substandard transfer of a film that is available elsewhere as the director intended it to look.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a classic story which draws you into a world not unlike a Shakespeare's play ( in this case Hamlet ). Brilliant, compelling and pure drama.Published 2 months ago by Dangerous Dave
ching chang chow ....I kept ducking ....but this still kung fued mePublished 6 months ago by david lynch
Interesting and engaging take on the Hamlet theme with sumptuous photography and some incredible outdoor scenes.Published 6 months ago by Nigel Ecclesfield
I liked this highly original 2006 Chinese adaptation of "Hamlet", even if it has some flaws. I spend a rather pleasant moment watching it. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Maciej
What a beautiful, artistic, complicated but awe inspiring film. Beautiful story and choreography. Zhang ziyi did an amazing job with her role as an empress. Highly recommend.Published 13 months ago by luvyduvydoli