Monday, October 23, 2006

Chinese Hamlet

I dragged my cousin out for a movie yesterday afternoon. While she may have planned on watching Demi's husband battling his way through coast guard training, I was more inclined to see the recent Chinese film, so we ended up at the Banquet. Freezing inside the cinema, the movie didn't warm us up much. Zhang Ziyi doesn't seem to be ready to play a role that is too "mature" for her, and with little opportunity to show off her martial arts/ballet kinetics. The Empress/Gertrude isn't meant to be an ingenue, and the essence of her passion with both Wu Luan/Hamlet contradicts her submission to the Uncle-cum usurper Emperor/Claudius role. I preferred her antipathy towards Qing/Ophelia as they battle their way into the young prince's affection.

At least the role of the prince, who is seen as an emotional, soulful sort who likes to have his hair washed more than he massacres his enemies, seems more akin to the pansy Hamlet of yore. He doesn't do a good job saving himself, but does a better job creating havoc in other people's lives, especially Qing. The perfect foil to him is the ultra-macho Governor Yin, brother of Qing, who saves Wu Luan from another assasination in the middle of the film. They all fall in the end, and the twist (although it's not completely clear what the end means) is that the Empress, too, falls to the sword. Who was it? Ghost of her late first husband? Or simply her going insane?

And what of all the tears? Does one really need to see every sniffle, red eye, stuffed up nose to know that the character is undergoing emotional distress? Are Asian actors' eyes too small that they must leak fluid?

I had thought this film was going to be another collaboration with Zhang and Chow Yun Fat, who might have given the role of Claudius some sex appeal. I just kept thinking how they vamped up the production value in one of the television mini-series and that it wasn't much fun to watch on the big screen. Ho hum, 2 out of 5 and not worth paying P160.00.

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