The Banquet 夜宴

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Director: Feng Xiaogang
Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Huang Xiao Ming
RunTime: 131 minutes

Genre: Period Drama (Chinese)
Rating: To be advised

Set during the period of five dynasties and ten kingdoms, The Banquet is a story of power struggle and emotional conflicts.

The invitees to This Banquet is top-class: Director Feng Xiaogang from The World Without Thieves (a very entertaining movie starring Andy Lau and Rene Liu), cast Zhang Ziyi (or Ziyi Zhang and hers was the only name reversed the credits), Ge You, Daniel Wu Zhou Xun and Huang Xiao Ming, and action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (again) and soundtrack composer Tan Dun.

A loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the focus is the young empresses (Ziyi as Gertrude?) who plots against the emperor (Ge You), but lusts after her step 'son' (Daniel Wu as Hamlet?). The final banquet was a climax where everyone plans a final showdown and crucial assassination.

The Banquet is spectacular in terms of ravishness and grandeur in terms of set design, and that's probably about it. It's like entering a grand restaurant without the food you expect.

All the actors were strangely speaking their dialogue with unexpected slowness matched with wooden expressions. The lovable Zhou Xun, who was only one who looked natural, instead seemed very out of place.

Ge You delivered one-liners which were clever, but somehow sounded ridiculous in the setting that the audience burst into laughter. I was trying hard to control when Zhang and Daniel started fighting, which seem to burst into a waltz dance. The direction was very deliberate, but pushed too hard to being arty-farty. A good 41 minutes could have been cut if more could have been done to its pacing.

The Banquet is a fine example to show that big budget films may not equate to substance, top actors may not equate to fine acting, and Chinese period movies should just stay true to the heart.

The Banquet – Paying a heavy price tag may not come with fine dining

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