Zhang Yimou is not a movie director. He is a magician, a sorcerer combined with a market trickster waving scarves and distracting us from our mundane life. He conjures up colors, movements, dancing with the elements of nature, seducing the wind, talking with the leaves, ducking from a flying dagger.
Zhang Yimou is an artist. Sometimes we did only two or three shots a day because we were waiting for the sun." - Jet Li
Love that can be explained is not love. "
I am in awe. That's all I have to say. Everytime I find myself drowning open mouthed into one of his films, I understand what awe means, what it means to be in a place where the word respect is just the first stepping stone, where professional becomes poetic, where visual become visionary, where art resides in the box office.
Zhang Yimou is the most visual director I know, and although this statement sounds strange, aren’t all directors visually inclined?
When it comes to Yimou the visual part is not a tool, not part of the language and not even a character in the movie, no, the visual part is the movie, it is the world, it is exaggerated just because it is so vast and powerful, as worlds tend to be.
HERO is a combination of my personal feeling and the commercialism. "
And then, there is the fact that nothing is ever still, nothing is ever stable, the movement is constant, the flow of energy never-ending. How does you even start thinking about choreographing wind? Falling leaves, drapes waving, how do you control the chaos, manipulate your reality in such a way that here is no inanimate object to be seen, only supporting actors, be it in the form of leaves, swords, drapes, people, a bamboo stalk… everything in motion.
There is always a dance element in martial arts, even the less evolved ones, and when it comes to the east and the esthetic value of each movement, it is easy to take it to the next level. Yimou took it two levels forward. It is not only a dance, it is not only choreographed, it is indeed meditated to flow with the nature of things, the nature of the story, of the film. Again, awe. Simple straight forward awe. Swan lake can go take a dive, this is real dance.
When I started my photographic career I did exercises based on Yimou's films and the most fun part was the color motives. Not only do we get a choreographed masterful movement filled scenes which rely on a strong visual ambience, Yimou goes one step further and color codes scenes for us to improve the impact of the overall look and to tighten the storyline in an almost fairytale manner, going from color to color, chapters in a schemed book, a structured visual voyage. And it works.
I hope before I am getting too old and when my mind is still functioning, I can tell some better stories. "
We are indeed very thankful to Yimou for being so color fixated. It does send the experience to another level altogether, bringing us closer to the true art in the effort, the simple reduction of elements, simplification of motive, a Zen like concentration in one specific artistic colorful direction at a time.
Zhang Yimou tried to use martial arts
to talk about Chinese culture, Chinese people.
What do they think, what do they want
and what do they hope." - Jet Li
I still prefer his "cleaner" work in hero than the elaborate productions of bigger films such as "the golden flower" with its, eh, quite obvious golden theme and multi participant fight scenes, but I am not complaining as no matter if its big or small, no mater if it one color or a rainbow splashing in front of our eyes, when it is produced with the painter brush of Yimou it is always good. Always a celebration, a conquest, an experience.
If one day I will be tempted to get off my high horse of gadgetless living, and buy a high definition big screen tv, it will be mostly for his films. They deserve it.And that, coming from me, is the best compliment any director can get.