War is hell. Many have probably heard this short truism numerous times before in their life but whether or not they truly understand it is another matter yet one hopes that everyone in the world never has to experience the horrors first hand. As cinema has progressed through the years so has the war film genre and while once it might have made for great propaganda to show a clear delineation between good and evil and to ramp up patriotic furor watching stilted war flicks the norm nowadays is to take a much more evenhanded perspective.
Rich gorgeous cinematography coupled with a steely yet ultimately intimate portrayal of a woman bent on finding her lost fiancé by French thespian Audrey Tautou makes Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s World War I romantic spectacle A Very Long Engagement a thrill to watch even though the script drags for far too long and makes the almost criminal mistake of introducing far too many characters for the audience to properly keep track of.
Adapting Romance of the Three Kingdoms to the silver screen is a daunting task for any filmmaker as any fan of the work will realize just how densely chock full of material it is. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter who directs but there’s never going to be a time when the entire work is going to be adapted – it’s nigh impossible. For the uninitiated think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings and times it by a factor of ten and only then do you begin to form an idea just how unfilmmable it would be unless some Chinese Howard Hughes decides to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into ten consecutive movies and even then you’d still probably be only skimming the surface. Too bad John Wayne in unavailable to play lead hero Liu Bei.
Director Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly (Ji Jie Hao) is a stunning technical achievement for Chinese cinema showing the absolute horrors of war with bone chilling brutality yet for all its merits depicting an almost unknown to the Western World skirmish during the Chinese Civil War its underlying human narrative shines through. The Assembly is not a perfect film laden with a few serious missteps but for the most part those who love war movies like Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front or even Taegukgi are going to come away from this film feeling seriously moved.