Is it me, or does North America cinema not really deal in epics anymore? And by epics, I mean films like Spartacus or Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia; those larger than life films that take a main character (or characters) on an epic widescreen journey of adventure and/or self-discovery. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of any (leave a comment at the bottom if you can, would you?)
Maybe that’s why watching the Hong Kong film Confucius felt so fresh to me.
Now, believe me, I’m no expert on Asian cinema by any stretch of the imagination. While I’ve watched my fair share of Japanese horror flicks and I’m contemplating picking up the recently released Battle Royale Blu-Ray set, I can’t speak particularly educatedly on the cinema as a whole. What I can tell you is, I found the historical epic Confucius to be, well, epic. The movie tells the tale of the title character, a brilliant and compassionate leader who uses wisdom and cunning to win battles. When he is rejected by his home land, he wanders with his followers, spreading his teachings.
Chow Yun-Fat plays Confucius, and delivers a wan and serene performance. If you’re looking for him to bust out any martial arts moves, you’ll definitely be left wanting. Instead, Yun-Fat just plays Confucius as completely and utterly relaxed. It’s a unique performance, one you likely wouldn’t see in a North American film unless the character is a stoner of some sort.
However, even with that solid portrayal, what really amazed me about the film wasn’t any particular performance, but the cinematography, done by Academy Award winner Peter Pau. And that’s where the whole notion of epic comes in. Confucius just feels big – it’s the perfect widescreen film. From battle scenes to moments of men travelling, you really are immersed in the land and the times (keep in mind, this is set in and around the midd 400s BC). It’s images I’ve never seen on screen before, which made them quite gorgeous to watch. If you’re going to view Confucius, be sure to check it out on Blu-Ray to get the full feel of it.
Confucius is billed as a fantasy/drama/biographic/adventure, so how much is true to the man’s story and how much is conjecture I couldn’t tell you. I’m not sure it matters though – when you’re dealing with a man and his legend, it’s unlikely you would ever get the whole truth and nothing but. However, what I did watch I really was captivated by. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Asian cinema, or you’re like me and have little to no background in it, I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy Confucius.
Confucius is out on Blu-Ray/DVD tomorrow. You can order it here.