The Banquet

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The Banquet
Following on the heels of his impressive, more recent war movie, ‘Assembly’, this dazzlingly designed, mega-budget, period costumer offers further proof of Feng’s increasing versatility, expansive vision and bravura technique. But, although it isn’t derivative exactly – unless you count its plot’s magpie borrowings from Shakespeare’s tragedies, notably ‘Hamlet’ – it does seem to weaken and enervate itself within its individually impressive but collectively suffocating sequences of high art, balletic pageant, classically inspired performances and flying, CGI-assisted daggers.

It’s right, too, that it has been given a family audience-denying certificate; not just, it must be said, for swishing scenes of head-severing, blood-spurting, ritualised violence, which alternate rhythmically with the sloth-slow court intrigue: they’re stylised out of all meaningful offence or shock. Rather, younger viewers may have been bemused by the air of suppressed eroticism that suffuses its episodes of poisonous romantic intrigue. ‘Emperor knows how to pleasure a woman,’ says Ziyi Zhang’s porcelain beauty, the widowed Tang dynasty empress being massaged by her brother-in-law, the new emperor and her ex-husband’s assassin.

Daniel Wu injects a more dynamic thrust as the returned prince, the new empress’s supposed true love and fellow swordmaster, and brings relief with him as the movie mutates into a more orthodox, martial arts-inflected, revenge tragedy played out finally at the elaborate banquet organised for the 100th day of the emperor’s reign. But overall ‘The Banquet’ is too drawn-out, lacking the originality and sprightliness those such as Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee brought to similar fare, and overly conspicuous in its designs on the approval of the international art movie audience.

By: Wally Hammond


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 11 2008
Duration: 131 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Feng Xiaogang
Cast: Zhang Ziyi
Ge You
Daniel Wu

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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It would be a most formidable job to retell the story of one of the most watched play Hamlet; but that was not exactly the intention of the director & writer had in mind. They built a story using Shakespeare's play framework and apparently has shifted quit a lot of the labor to reshaping the remarried queen and her ambition, rather than recounting only the surviving prince's angst. One couldn't blame the visuals as what we watched is a cinema rather than a play. The depth of the characters development couldn't never match the original, and probably would also be unfair to them to do expect so. All in all it is a visually stunning movie with plot and action, and infused with a good dose of art and music. But it might fall short to please either the art house or the martial art audience.