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Shadow – 2018 Yimou Zhang
- After the disastrous The Great Wall (also known as the Matt Damon ponytail movie) in 2016, it would have been tempting to write off legendary auteur Yimou Zhang as past his prime or washed up. Shadow is certainly a return to form even if it never hits the highs of 2002’s Hero.
- There are three rival kingdoms divided in ancient China. This is the Wuxia genre even if much of it plays out like a chamber drama (The Lion in Winter, The Man in the Iron Mask, and yes, Shakespeare) until we get to the action in the second half. The narrative is full of power plays, decoys, and doubles.
- Shadow is feat of grayscale color. It was shot digitally, in color, and then changed in post-production to this breathtaking monochrome (except for the faces- which takes some adjusting). It plays out like Hero meets Sin City. This helps supplement and round out the body of work that produced not only Hero but The House of Flying Daggers as well. The color is not the only portion of Shadow that is both hauntingly beautiful and meticulously designed. Yimou Zhang is clearly a master of symmetrical compositions and mise-en-scene. There are overhead shots of the Tai Chi diagram (captured perfectly) and flowing robes (another feat of costume design work adding to the mise-en-scene). There is this stylized decal glass mural (gray of course) that is often used to obstruct and design the frame (Fassbinder’s Despair – 1978- uses something similar).
- The bamboo forest at the 49-minute mark is a standout. But there are another half-dozen shots at least that belong on the wall in an art museum. In one such composition, Yimou Zhang is sets a frame to make Wes Anderson proud, and even has the smoke coming from a lantern to add to the color (gray).
- Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality