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The Promise Review


Weak
Chen Kaige has always had a weakness for the theatrical, something that can be put to grand and operatic effect in films like Farewell My Concubine and Temptress Moon. It can also lead to quite questionable dramatic choices - or just blatantly silly ones, as is the case his newest, The Promise. The biggest budgeted film in Chinese history ($35 million, about what Bruckheimer spends on catering), it's another in a string of costume action epics that have constituted the bulk of Chinese cinematic export to this country over the past few years. So why does it look so cheap and inspire not awe, but giggling?

It all starts off quite epic. Back in China's distant mystical past, there's a kingdom in which a battle had been waged, and a young girl scavenging food from dead soldiers. She's offered a tempting proposition by the Goddess Manshen, a floating apparition who seems to like messing with mortals: the girl will have everything she's ever desired, but everyone she loves will be taken away from her - unless time runs backward, snow falls in the spring, and the dead rise from the grave. The girl, not having a lot of options, agrees. This sets the stage for a grand, widescreen, Technicolor love triangle two decades down the line, the sort of thing one would imagine that Kaige could pull off in his sleep. The result is something quite closer to self-parody.

Continue reading: The Promise Review

Together (2002) Review


Very Good
In his nine feature films, Chinese auteur Chen Kaige has given Western audiences amazing opportunities to learn the ins and outs of China's tumultuous history, most notably in Temptress Moon, The Emperor and the Assassin, and the Oscar-nominated Farewell My Concubine. Chen's latest, Together, is a more humble effort than those historical epics, but beyond its heartwarming tale of a 13-year-old violin prodigy and his impoverished father's attempts to give him a better life no matter what there's a gritty depiction of old China colliding with new, for better and for worse.

Liu Xiaochun (Tang Yun, in a piece of casting that's nothing short of miraculous) has already amazed all the locals in his provincial town with his musical talents. He needs a bigger stage. His widower father Liu Cheng (Liu Peiqi) decides to leave his nightmarish job as a restaurant cook, tuck his meager life savings into his red cap, and take Xiaochun to Beijing, where he hopes to find a suitable violin teacher and new opportunities for his son.

Continue reading: Together (2002) Review

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Chen Hong Movies

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

Chen Kaige has always had a weakness for the theatrical, something that can be put...

Together (2002) Movie Review

Together (2002) Movie Review

In his nine feature films, Chinese auteur Chen Kaige has given Western audiences amazing opportunities...

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