When her brother-in-law, Li (starring Ge You) ascends the
throne after the King’s death, Empress Wan (starring
Zhang Ziyi) agrees to marry him in order to protect her step-son,
Prince Wu Luan (starring Daniel Wu). Convinced that his uncle
has murdered his father, the Prince Wu Luan decides to return
to the palace and take revenge. Everything culminates in a
night banquet where all hell break loose…
sumptuous affair, The Banquet scores from the beginning with
its appetizers till the dessert at the end. Following in the
footsteps of its predecessors, The Banquet, inspired by William
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is a Chinese film of epic proportions.
Sure, Hamlet has been adapted to the silver screen countless
times by various talents like Mel Gibson and Ethan Hawke,
but the plot is just as relevant and pertinent today as it
was back in Shakespeare’s time, or in this instance,
old China’s time.
Ziyi is Empress Wan, who has no choice but to marry her brother-in-law,
Emperor Li (Ge You) who was usurped the throne from his brother.
Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu), angered upon knowing Emperor Li
had meant for him to be killed, seeks revenge for the death
of his father. Further complicating the web is Qing Nu (Zhou
Xun), the daughter of a General who loves Prince Wu Luan but
has to fight for his feelings with Empress Wan who, too, has
been long in love with her stepson before she married his
is a lavish spread through and through from its stellar acting
to its subtly layered script to its resplendent sets and glorious
music. It is hard to fault a film as such when the actors
portray their respective characters with muted acting but
leaving powerful impressions. Zhang Ziyi slips into the role
of the Emperor Wan with utter menace and Zhou Xun balances
the tandem with her subtle portrayal of Qing Nu who is naïve
but vociferous. Ge You can rule China without lifting a finger
and Daniel Wu is the son torn between revenge and love.
Feng Xiaogang’s vision of The Banquet is truly a cinematic
wonderment which includes the hauntingly surreal opening of
the Empress walking towards her coronation ceremony and also,
the brutal massacre of the theatre performers. The music by
Academy Award winner, Tan Dun complements the film fully and
reaches the heavens above in ensuring that it holds the film.
The Banquet is a satisfying feast for your visual, hearing
and sensory pleasure.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The DVD consists of the token features like a photo
gallery and trailers/teasers. The only highlight worth mentioning
is The Making Of featurette. I believe it provided a comprehensive
look behind the scenes of such a beautiful film. Unfortunately,
I could not understand what was being said as the featurette
sorely lacks English subtitles. A poor decision considering
it already has bare bones special features.
The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and adequately brings out
Tan Dun's lush score (which is reviewed here).
The transfer is rich enough to show the dark tones and also
the richness of the set designs.