Whilst Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon introduced an unsuspecting world to the joys of wuxia at the start of the century, no one has done more to keep it in the public eye than Zhang Yimou. The Chinese director, made famous by Hero and House of Flying Daggers, has been a key proponent of this style of storytelling. With his new film, Shadow, he’s back at his best.
Pei lost the treasured city of Jingzhou to the Kingdom of Yang when Yang Cang (Hu Jun) defeated Commander Zi Yu (Deng Chao) in a duel. When the king of Pei (Zheng Kai) discovers that his champion has challenged the legendary fighter to a rematch, he is enraged. Suing for peace just results in a slur against his sister (Guan Xiaotong). However, all is not what it seems. The real Zi Yu is gravely injured and is using a lookalike, his shadow, in a dangerous game.
Shadow harks back to the films Yimou was producing at the beginning of last decade. There’s some absolutely breathtaking choreography, jaw-dropping backdrops and a clever twisty plot. His usual bright colours are replaced with monochrome hues of black and grey. While equally beautiful, this choice of palette adds an ominous air and sets the scene for martial trickery. Shadow is a meticulously made historical romp which ramps up the action, intrigue and entertainment.
Shadow screens again at Fantasia Festival 2019 on 25 July.