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The Emperor and The Assassin [DVD]  
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From the acclaimed director of Farewell, My Concubine comes THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN a visuallystunning epic, exploring the devastating price one country pays for peace and one man pays for power. Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, has one driving ambition: to unify China's seven kingdoms into one magnificent empire. Impressed by her lover's convictions, Lady Zhao (Gong Li) helps Ying Zheng concoct an assassination plot that would justify the conquest of Qin's most powerful enemy. When Ying Zheng's peaceful mission explodes into a brutal holocaust, a disillusioned Lady Zhao is forced to question her loyalty and her lover's destiny.
Set in 221 BC, The Emperor and the Assassin tells of Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian) and his obsession to unite seven Chinese kingdoms and become the first Emperor of China. The film mixes spectacular battle scenes with court intrigue, counterpointed by the King's complex relationship with the only woman he has truly loved, the Lady Zhao (Gong Li). From protocol-ridden palaces to wide open grasslands, this is a visually striking film, both beautiful and at the same time burdened with the horrors of the period.
Though this was the most expensive film ever made in China, director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) nevertheless retains a tight reign on character and psychology, recalling Kurosawa's Ran (1985) and Kagemusha (1980). The cast, particularly the two leads, are magnificent and both production design and score are first rate. While the unfolding story has similar appeal to Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it can be as confusing and jarringly edited as the original (pre-director's cut) version of The Last Emperor (1987), and for the same reason--despite its 154 minutes--the film was cut by approximately 30 minutes prior to release. The full version may eventually reveal a masterpiece, though in its present form it is still an exceptionally powerful and compelling drama.
On the DVD: The Emperor and the Assassins original 1.85:1 image is transferred anamorphically, and while not up with the finest DVDs is still sharp and detailed. Strangely, despite the film being presented in DTS theatrically, the DVD offers mere three-channel Dolby Pro-Logic. No more than adequate, this is a serious disappointment when at least Dolby Digital 5.1 would be the accepted norm. The film can be watched with the original Mandarin soundtrack, with or without English subtitles, or dubbed into English. The extras are a 4:3 trailer and a serious, comprehensive commentary by director Chen Kaige. For anyone wanting to know how to mount such a large-scale production, there can be few better guides than Kaige.--Gary S. DalkinSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It tells the story af a king in ancient China and his struggle to unite the country into one unified kingdom. As well as epic battles the film focuses on his personal relationships, with other rulers and members of his own household, and how they are worked out in true Macchiavellian style. If you have read and appreciated Sun Tzu's "the art of war" then watch this film.
In the finest traditions of "Ben Hur" it literally has a "cast of thousands," a welcome relief in the age of computer graphics. The (infrequent) battle scenes are truly awesome.
I do not think it would be too inappropriate to compare the story to the finest shakespeare plays in terms of subtlety and depth. Although it can at times be an effort to watch, it is a film which will stay with you long after it has ended. Your appreciation will grow as the complex and highly emotive story strands work themselves out in your brain hours and even days after you have watched it.
Highly recommended, the best film I have ever seen.
The plot revolves around Ying Zheng (King of Qin) and his 'quest' to unify the other six kingdoms under his rule.
The film begins with the conquest of the Han and the main plot involves Ying Zhengs lover, Lady Zhao (played by Gong Li) going off on a clandestine mission to provide a pretext for him to attack another state Yan.
While she is away, there are complications at court and Ying Zheng, who is portrayed as a peace-loving unifier, gradually becomes (or is revealed to be) a ruthless tyrant.
The central question is whether personal desire for love and happiness can coincide with political ambition and a desire to save the world (or at least ancient China) through absolutist rule.
Or to put it another way, "What profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul" ?
The cast of characters includes some convincing supporting performances particularly from Fengyi Zhang as the assassin Jing Ke.
Jing Ke is a very interesting character and he and Ying Zheng Ke are portrayed as living opposite lives in many respects .
The courtly intrigues are handled with depth and they are driven by the characters rather than to satisfy the need for plot twists.
This is a film which will reveal more with each watching and I suspect there are other subtle clues that I will never get due to my lack of knowledge about the culture.
In terms of cinematography, it couldn't be less like Hero.Read more ›
The film revolves around 3 people:
Emperor/King Ying Zheng: He has had a dream handed down to him from his ancestors to "rule all under heaven" (i.e. China). He believes that he will make a good ruler. At the start of the film he is the ruler of the Kingdom of Qin.
Lady Zhao: Zheng's first love. They've been growing apart for years but Zheng still wants her around.
Jing Ke: An assassin from the country of Yan. A distressing event in his past has made him renounce violence.
The film starts off with a battle and old fashion ideas of honour. In order to stop more bloodshed, Lady Zhao comes up with a plan. She will go with the Prince of Yan, who Zheng is currently holding hostage, to Yan and persuade them to send an assassin to make an attempt on Zheng (which is doomed to failure) and then Yan will have to capitulate to Qin without soldiers having to go into battle to make up for it.
Things don't quite go as planned when she embarks on her mission.
There is a subplot in that a high ranking person in Zheng's kingdom is plotting a coup.
One warning: it doesn't flinch from showing us the aftermath and devestation of war. It's neither pro-war or anti-war.
The film is a period piece which is about plots, counter plots and intrigue. It's also about how emotions affect politics and decisions individuals take. It starts out from one point of view but gradually shows us others.
At 2 1/2 hours it is a little on the long side. Despite that it's worth a look.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful in every respect. Stunning sets. Incredible costumes. Amazing stunts. Fabulously lit and shot.Published 23 months ago by the Bear
I gave five star as this film is very good I would recommend it to people who likes Asian moviesPublished on 4 Feb. 2014 by Amazon Customer
Don't buy, unless you want to throw away hours of your life watching extremely bad dubbed Chinese films about nothing.Published on 21 Nov. 2013 by Seano0o
This old Chinese wisdom, which can be understood in many different ways, all very instructive, was inspired by THE most famous assassination attempt in history of China, which... Read morePublished on 9 Mar. 2012 by Maciej
I love old time Chinese politics... it was all so robust ( read 'murderous' ), and all so polite at the same time. Read morePublished on 5 Aug. 2011 by Mrs Danvers
The Emperor And The Assassin tells the same basic story as Hero. I wanted to get into Chinese cinema a bit more, and the amazon reviews talked it up. Read morePublished on 2 Feb. 2010 by A. Smith
Chinese history, a good film. Not as good as many newer films in terms of action and effects, but the acting is strong, the assassination attempt is a bit laughable, but otherwise... Read morePublished on 4 Dec. 2009 by :)
I bought this for the history and was rather disappointed! "Hokum" rather than history would fit. The dubbing is poor, several characters have regular histrionics and at times the... Read morePublished on 5 Oct. 2009 by John Redman