September 05, 2006


THE BANQUET had its world premiere in Venice over the weekend and the word on the street is...meh. This much-hyped period film starring Zhang Ziyi, Ge You and Daniel Wu, directed by Feng Xiaogang (WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES) with action by Yuen Wo-ping, art direction by Tim Yip and music by Tan Dun is supposedly based on HAMLET and has kept a rolling boil of internet interest since it went into production.

But the reviews are in and they say: too long, not enough happens, little to no action, little to no story until the last half hour. Derek Elley reviews for Variety ("...not helped by the principals' slow, pregnant delivery of their lines, lack of acting chemistry (normally a strength of Feng's pics), and the unremittingly gloomy look.) Dan Fainaru reviews for ScreenDaily ("...stodgily told and clumsily directed, inter-cut with expertly performed but by now predictable masses of martial arts choreography") and they both come across as uncomfortable guests at a failed dinner party ("I...I thought your costume design was really terrific and that tedious plotting was very...interesting. I've never had it served with quite so much gravy before.")

The Chinese press has far more interesting details. Chief among CriEnglish's criticisms is that Western critics wanted a more "Chinese" film and found it "too Occidental", and then they say that the version screened in Venice was dubbed in English. I haven't seen a mention made of this elsewhere, and Variety says that the dialogue is in Mandarin so what planet does this news come from? According to CriEnglish, when THE BANQUET had a sneak preview in Guangzhou the audience laughed at it, couldn't understand the old fashioned style of speaking and walked out during an "awkward scene". They claim that said "awkward scene" was removed from the print screened at Venice.

Will this set the tone for Chinese coverage of THE BANQUET? Will they now turn on the movie after crowing about it for months? Maybe they only just found out that Zhang Ziyi is in it?


September 5, 2006 at 12:55 PM in News | Permalink


If Zhang Ziyi is in it, it has to be good.

Posted by: Phil | Sep 6, 2006 7:05:43 AM

Starring Zhang Ziyi. With Tim Yip, Tan Dun and Yuen Woo Ping in the crew. Can we say: Another CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON wanna-be? Get over that 2000 Ang Lee movie, *please*, people (especially Mainland Chinese directors)!!!

Seeing the trailer play a few times in cinemas now, part of me wants to get excited over it but another part of me is much happier to see movies like MY NAME IS FAME (Lau Ching Wan in a meaty role! The return of director Lawrence Lau/Ah Mon!!! Another great script from James Yuen. One of those HK movies with heart and lots of fun to spot cameos!!!!!) play and hope, against all hope, that the latter does well at the domestic box office.

Posted by: YTSL | Sep 6, 2006 2:49:31 PM

In addition to contemporary themes, I happen to love ancient Chinese costume epics, but object to the redundant "produced by the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon team," which wrongfully projects the perception of copycatting. Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Promise, The Banquet couldn't be more different from CTHD. It's the marketing that is at fault.

The Japanese have produced an abundance of their own costume epics, but critics never accused them of being one-genre, as Chinese film makers are criticized as being such.

Posted by: oj | Sep 7, 2006 2:06:06 PM

Post a comment