Zhang Yimou's near-monochromatic palace epic 'SHADOW' has emerged as the film to beat in the annual Golden Horse Awards, collecting a total of 12 nominations including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Deng Chao) and Best Actress (Sun Li).
Directed and co-written by Zhang, SHADOW reimagines a part of the Three Kingdoms epic as the story of a powerful king (Zheng Kai) who has been displaced from his homeland and whose people long to win it back. The king's simple yet cunning military commander (Deng Chao) has trained a "shadow," a body double, who might be his only key to winning back the kingdom.
Reviews have been stellar for the film which held its world premiere out of competition in Venice, where the Chinese director was honored with the prestigious Glory to the Filmmaker award. Variety calls it a 'a thrilling return to form, which matches Zhang’s best work for the sheer voracious elegance of the images and possibly surpasses much of it for inventiveness'; while The Hollywood Reporter praises it for being 'stunning' and featuring 'top-notch action choreography we’ve come to expect from the director of wuxia fests such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers', including one of the most incredible fight scenes involving a battalion of armoured umbrellas.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Zhang said that his decision to style the locations and costumes almost entirely in black and white but shoot in colour was due to his fondness for Chinese traditional black-and-white ink paintings. He wanted each scene to look almost like it could come alive from a Chinese ink painting. Given its impressive visuals, it's no wonder then that the film has been nominated in the technical categories of Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction.
Just as notable is how Zhang has framed a feminine story within the surface of a very masculine world. Zhang explained that Sun Li's role as the wife of the military commander Yu is in fact the most complicated character in the film, given how she is always facing choices at every turn of the plot. Zhang himself has also received a nomination with his co-writer Li Wei in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
The 55th Golden Horse Awards will take place on November 17 in Taipei. This year's jury chair will be Gong Li, who will lead 11 jury members, including Golden Horse Best Screenplay winner Yau Nai Hoi, Golden Horse Best Editing winner Chen Po-Wen, famous international Chinese film scholar Michael Berry, Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year and producer Jimmy Huang and Best Screenplay nominee and Hong Kong producer Jo Jo Hui Yuet Chun.
SHADOW opens in cinemas 11 October, and is co-distributed by Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures.