Monday, August 25, 2008

Zhang Yimou

First, let me say, BOW IN THE MUTHASUCKIN PRESENCE OF GREATNESS!!!!! Zhang Yimou; this is the visionary behind the extraordinary opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics. I'm sure by now you all have seen it on NBC and youtube. It was by far the greatest festival the Olypics have ever seen; never to be match again [unless he directs another].
For those who think that they are unfamiliar with his work, Yimou is the guy that directed Hero starring Jet Le. Yimou was born in Xi’an in 1951 to parents of "bad" class background and reportedly sold his own blood to buy his first camera. He grew up in socialist China where class struggle dominated life and literature. Like many young Chinese of the time, he was sent to farms and factories during the Cultural Revolution and so gained grass-roots knowledge of life in China. His portfolio of photographs helped win him admission to the cinematography department of the Beijing Film Academy in 1978, after successfully appealing a decision to bar him on the basis of age.
His directorial debut, Red Sorghum (1987), captured a domestic mass audience and it catapulted him to local and international fame. Its success brought international funding for his next two films, Judou (1990) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991). These three films form a trilogy that cemented his reputation abroad but both Judou and Raise the Red Lantern were banned in China until he made a Communist Party-approved film on a contemporary theme, The Story of Qiu Ju (1992). Many see this shift from mythic to mass filmmaking as Zhang’s capitulation to Party authorities and some trace a decline in his subsequent work. However, Zhang himself sees it differently. He constantly seeks diversity. He believed that his first three films were too similar: "I went from red to red. I don’t want audiences to say, ‘Ah, yes, another Zhang Yimou!’ whenever I make a film". His filmmaking therefore moved from historical to mostly contemporary themes in the second decade of his career. On the cusp of his third decade, he has again changed style with Hero, a historical gongfu film that marries the mythic with the most popular of all Chinese genres ¾ martial arts.
Below are some of the images from the opening ceremony.