A loose adaptation of Hamlet, "The Night Banquet" is set in an empire in chaos. The Emperor, the Empress, the Crown Prince, the Minister and the General all have their own enemies they would like to finish off at a night banquet.
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In 907 AD, the Tang Dynasty is in tatters; infighting snarls the imperial family. Crown Prince Wu Luan loves Little Wan, but his father takes her as his Empress. Wu Luan goes into exile, studying dance and music. His uncle murders his father, taking throne and Empress; uncle sends assassins to kill Wu Luan. The Crown Prince eludes death and comes to court. The Emperor arranges for Little Wan's coronation and dispatches Wu Luan to a distant land; he then calls for a midnight banquet on the 100th day of his rule. Poison, treachery, Wu Luan's return, and the love of the innocent Qing for Wu Luan set up the final entanglements. No Fortinbras or Horatio lay the dead to rest. Written by
Gong Li was originally supposed to play Zhang Ziyi's part. Due to scheduling conflicts, the role was passed onto Zhang Ziyi and she gladly accepted because she thought the character was so interesting. See more »
The cinematography of this movie is wonderful, and anyone willing to sit through a movie of any stripe to see a fresh sword fight on a gorgeous mountainside should see this movie. I particularly liked the way that fighting scenes in the movie were sometimes juxtaposed next to musical performances complete with beautiful, slow movements by dancers. I think the comparison heightened my sense of the ballet-like quality of the otherwise violent confrontations. Those lead to consider seeing this movie on suggestions that it presents an artful re-imagination of Shakespeare's Hamlet--the one I read was in the Beijing Daily--should look elsewhere, however. This movie is a study in how a complex and interesting character study of one of the most enigmatic characters in the history of drama could be rendered both cliché and senseless.
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