Saturday, August 2, 2008

Red Cliff (2): Oriental Wisdoms

The hype and over-exposed discussions on the internet eventually killed my viewing pleasure. Even the laughing-out-laud absurdity seemed not so funny. But I was still holding out hope for the battle scenes.

Stories of Three Kingdoms are very popular in China because it contains many political wisdom, cunning military maneuver, and personal heroics. The battle of Red Cliff is the most famous because it was a classical case of victory by asymmetrically weaker force and laid down the foundation of triangular balance of power.

However, those who look to the film for some oriental wisdom will likely be disappointed. Wait, there are some. Liu Bei is depicted as a model leader of "serving the people" slogan, as he directs his troops to protect the people at military cost. The underling philosophy is that a king without people is no king. Man power was an essential factor for a weak but ambitious state. In another scene, Zhou Yu orders his troops to run across a muddy pond, so that soldiers who stole the buffolo for food - presumably get some mud on their shoes - won't be singled out. It's an old trick to win hearts and loyalties. But these details don't save the overall blendness.

Not to be deterred, I waited patiently for the battle scene of The Eight Trigram formation. According to John Woo himself, his was the first successful attempt to reenact such battle scene in details. I was getting excited in anticipation. How could I not? My childhood dream was about to be filled - ever since I read about the mysterious Eight Trigram Formation in The Legend of Gods(封神演义)as a child, I've always wanted to see the real rendition, of its traps, decoys, morphs.

And here they came. Troops of Caocao, the powerful evil mandarin, queued into the formation, whose shape looked exactly like the pattern of tortoise shell, lined by iron shields. Why exactly did they willingly and orderly enter the formation without lifting a finger, not to mention weapons, and thus allow themselves being separated by stupid shields on both sides, I had no idea. But if you think that was how they were defeated, you are grossly wrong. Flag was waved and the formation was moving. Along came the generals of the opposition, they would battle the soldiers of Caocao - one versus hundreds at a time- in the narrow allay delineated by the shields on both sides, and won. You would think that the point of having a formation at all was to confuse and divide the enemy to form advantage in local units. But no, for John Woo, the point of having a fancy formation was to have a chance to fight one on hundreds.

It was common in Hollywood style movies to have dumb moments to create the drama. Scoundrels would have every opportunity to kill the heroes at their mercy but always rather waited and not to, only to be killed by heroes because of it. Battle scenes in John Woo's Eight Trigram formation took it to a new height, almost to a fault of insulting viewers intelligence. But, on a second thought, he did manage to plant the scene to show John McClane style heroics and Kong Fu moves. That's exactly what Woo wanted.

If you can call that oriental wisdom, or is that occidental?

Related Content of This Rocking Post

No comments:

Post a Comment