×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Zhang Yimou Explores New Ideas in ‘Shadow’

Director honored at Venice with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award

In “Shadow,” Chinese director Zhang Yimou is poised to reveal new layers of darkness, danger and brooding sensuality. Zhang says his film is a story of “struggle and survival,” faced by commoners and women in the face of greater power. These are themes that Zhang has approached from numerous angles over some three decades of work, while repeatedly expanding the horizons of contemporary Chinese filmmaking. Small wonder that Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera calls Zhang a pioneer and “one of the most important directors in contemporary cinema.” Zhang will receive the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker award in Venice ahead of the out-of-competition screening of “Shadow” Sept. 6.

The logline says that the film is set during the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), and features an exiled king and his people, who develop a plot to regain control of their land. The events are told from the points of view of the king, his sister, his commander, the women trapped in the royal palace and a common citizen. But Zhang puts it more simply: “This is a film about a body double. I have always been interested in this subject. Despite the numerous period films released every year, no Chinese films have addressed it. Now I have the chance.” And the precise historical context has been blurred. “It’s no longer a Three Kingdoms story following my adaptation.”

Deng Chao (“Duckweed,” “Pancake Man”) plays both the master and the body double, two men with identical appearances, yet completely different personalities. One is a powerful noble, the other an ordinary man.

“Their fates constitute the central subject of this film,” says Zhang, though the roles of the female characters, in particular the commander’s wife, played by Betty Li Sun (“The Assassins,” “Painted Skin”) are also key.

“This film is about struggle, survival, dire predicaments and wild ambition — how a common man can manage not only to survive amidst the power games of kings and the aristocracy, but even to turn defeat into victory,” explains Zhang. That insight should be enough to get critics and analysts quickly salivating over contemporary political and social parallels.

But Zhang is careful to brush over such speculation by serving up a visual treat. “The visual style of ‘Shadow’ is inspired by the ink brush painting techniques of Chinese art. I have always wanted to experiment with this unique style of ink and wash effect. It looks particularly Chinese to me. The scenes with rain, especially, have a fluid texture that creates a unique ambience,” he says.

He recently completed his next pic — a treatise on filmmaking — and says he has ambitions in TV. “Long-form episodic TV allows for the telling of richer, fuller stories, and their great capacity provides a broader space in which characters can be created and developed, so I’ve always been interested in exploring this format. I’m working on the adaptation of a novel and, if the scripts turn out well, I may film it as a TV show.”

More Film

  • EMMA APPLETON as FEEF SYMONDS

    'Traitors' Producer 42 Hires Literary Manager Eugenie Furniss

    Eugenie Furniss is joining London- and Los Angeles-based management and production company 42 as literary manager, it was announced Wednesday. The company’s slate include movie “Ironbark,” a Cold War thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and TV series “Traitors,” a spy thriller coming to Netflix in the U.S. at the end of the month. Furniss joins 42 [...]

  • Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Trailer Drops

    The first trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is finally here. The highly anticipated film, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, is set to be released on July 26. Tarantino, who wrote the script and will also direct and produce the movie, was inspired by his own upbringing in the midst [...]

  • One-Cut-Of-The-Dead-Review

    Japanese Sleeper Hit ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Heads for English Remake (EXCLUSIVE)

    “One Cut of the Dead,” a micro-budget horror film that last year defied the odds to become one of the biggest hits of the year in Japan, is headed for an English-language remake. Patrick Cunningham, a Japan-based American producer whose credits include “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Starlet,” is behind the venture. Related Julie Andrews [...]

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content