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House of Flying Daggers
DVD disk
04.26.2005 By: Scott Weinberg
House of Flying Daggers order
Director:
Zhang Yimou

Actors:
Ziyi Zhang
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Andy Lau

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A stunningly gorgeous (and blind) assassin / showgirl is pursued by the agents of a corrupt government - mainly because she's a member of the infamous Flying Daggers clan. But when our heroine falls madly in love with her would-be captor, it sets the stage for some of the most brilliantly cool action sequences you ever will see.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Most people (logically) choose to compare HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS with director Zhang Yimou's previous film, HERO. Both films are lush and emotional stories that also happen to be overstuffed with dazzling action scenes. Both the arthouse crowds and the action fans have something to celebrate with both, although I think DAGGERS is considerably better.

While HERO told a tale of ancient politics and bureaucracy, DAGGERS is more of a love-on-the-run type of chase epic. The movie hardly ever slows down, and even when it does, it stops at a location richly romantic and storybook-beautiful. When I first saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival, I wrote "House of Flying Daggers is the best sort of adventure movie, in that the action sequences are long, dazzling, and actually part of the story," and I found myself thinking the exact same thing all these months later. The "in-between" stuff is not the sort of "yadda-yadda plot exposition" schpiel you have to contend with in most American action films. Sure, DAGGERS has some sweetie-pie romance and a whole lot of steel-eyed sincerity - but this flick's all about the action.

DAGGERS works for the romance fans, it's a godsend for the action freaks, and it's an complete and utter treat for movie-watchers of all persuasions. (This is a movie that's watchable for the art direction alone!) And it's one of those adventure movies that gets appreciably better with repeat viewings. Just be sure to play it on your biggest (and loudest) television!
THE EXTRAS
Commentary with actress Ziyi Zhang and director Zhang Yimou: This is a pretty excellent audio commentary that comes complete with English subtitles. The filmmaker and his leading lady cover all sorts of bases, from alternate titles to the difficulties inherent in playing a blind character to the film's response at various festivals. Slick move to allow the filmmakers to deliver a commentary in their own words (with the requisite subtitles, of course) as opposed to having someone translate their comments into English.

The Making of House of Flying Daggers: Nearly 45 minutes in length, this is your somewhat standard "from concept to premiere" featurette. I think it relies a bit too heavily on footage fro the film and plot synopses, but fans of the film will certainly find much to enjoy here. The on-set interviews with director Zhang Yimou and several cast members are a highlight, as is a look at the film's debut at the Cannes film festival. This featurette is presented in Cantonese with English subtitles.

Creating the Visual Effects: This featurette runs just over four minutes and offers a brief look at the evolution of the movie's staggering action sequences. You'll get a peek at early FX tests, followed by their corresponding scenes from the film.

Storyboard Comparisons: Choose between six individual scenes from the film and compare the original storyboard artwork with sequences from the final cut. You can also choose to watch the featurettes consecutively by choosing the handy-dandy "Play All" option. The sequences available are: "Dance in the Peony Pavilion," "Fight Beside Peony Pool," "Rescue From the Hail," "Ride Through the Forest," "Fight in the Flower Field," and "Capture in the Bamboo Forest."

Costume Gallery: A look at the early costume designs as compared (side-by-side) with the final product found in the film. Pretty cool stuff; it runs about 90 seconds.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery: A collection of snapshots from the production. And, once again, no clicking here, fellas! The photos drift by automatically as a portion of the "Daggers" score plays dramatically in the background. I didn't count the individual photographs, but this featurette runs a solid three-and-a-half minutes.

Music Video: Here's a music video of the tune "Lovers" by Shigenu Umeboyoshi & Kathleen Battle. A pretty & mellow love song set to lots of clips from the movie.

Previews: Trailers for House of Flying Daggers, Steamboy, MirrorMask (cool!), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and The Fifth Element Ultimate Edition.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A sweet & sincere romance, a metric ton of action sequences, and more dazzling locations than a trip through Middle-Earth. Toss in a strong handful of rock-solid extra goodies, and you're looking at a DVD full of extra Replay Value.
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