House of Flying Daggers

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)
Japanese title: Lovers
Director: Zhang Yimou
Running time: 120 minutes
Language: Mandarin
Currently showing
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There's a scene right at the beginning of Zhang Yimou's latest, "House of Flying Daggers," where Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau, playing Tang Dynasty lawmen, are in a brothel on a mission. They're trying to discover whether the new girl there, a blind dancer known as Shaomei (Zhang Ziyi), is connected to a mysterious group of antigovernment rebels known as the House Of Flying Daggers.

The girl is ordered to dance for Liu (Andy Lau). But not just any dance. A circle of rose-patterned drums on high pedestals are arrayed around the room while Liu sits at a table with a bowl of dried beans in front of him. In the middle of the room stands Shaomei, silent, attuned to the slightest sound.

Liu flicks a bean at a drum. It strikes with a thunderous boom, and skitters away clattering on the floor. Shaomei explodes in a flurry of twirls and pirouettes, a golden whirlwind, the long sleeves of her robes flying like wings till she magically strikes the exact same drum. Liu grins; he tries again with two beans, ricocheting beans . . . every time Shaomei finds his target. (And Zhang Ziyi, a dancer as well as an actress, does quite a performance here.) Finally, disdainfully, he tosses the whole bowl.