No More Heroes

In the first phase of his career, Chinese director Zhang Yimou made carefully crafted films (such as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live) that revisited painful periods of his country's recent past. In his last film, 2002's Hero, Zhang tried something utterly different: he retold China's founding myth as an epic martial-arts saga. Hero was undeniably gorgeous—Zhang, a former cinematographer, couldn't make an ugly film if he were forced to shoot with a Super 8 and a penlight—but viewers found it curiously inert, neither as affecting as his earlier, semi-subversive work nor as kinetic as a full-blooded action film. If...

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