Zhang Yimou has done serious dramas. He’s done big wuxia action films, but he hasn’t had a success in a while and perhaps it should come as no surprise that his newest film is designed to be a big fantasy action blockbuster – a legend about the Great Wall of China and the dragons they people were trying to thwart. While it’s been a success in China and the rest of the world, though, it opened third at the US box office, likely due to its terrible trailers that sold it poorly. But is the film any good? Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we wrap up our Zhang Yimou series with his 2016 film The Great Wall.

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Zhang Yimou had always wanted to direct an action film, and after years of working on the script, he finally had his chance with his ambitious visual feast, 2002’s Hero. Shot all over China starring some of the hottest Chinese stars telling a story about the assassination attempt on the King of Qin several thousand years ago, the film was the most expensive project in China’s history. Luckily, it also became the highest-grossing up to that point. Considering the last two films we talked about on the show were banned for years, it’s great to see Zhang and China finding a common ground with this film. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Zhang Yimou series with 2002’s Hero.

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Despite the bans on some of his earlier films like Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern in his home country of China, Zhang Yimou had exploded onto the world stage with these visually sumptuous films and had become a filmmaker worth talking about. Perhaps it was exactly this international presence that kept the Chinese government from suppressing his storytelling further – it gave him the popularity Zhang needed to keep making films. Whether that’s true or not, these early films of his certainly do feel like he has a few things to say about modern China, and it’s perhaps understandable that they’d take offense. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Zhang Yimou series with his fourth film, 1991’s Raise the Red Lantern.

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The eighties were a period of turmoil and transition for the Chinese film industry. Other forms of entertainment were more popular and the authorities were concerned that films that had been popular, like martial arts films, were on the out. But a group of Chinese filmmakers, collectively known loosely as the Fifth Generation – with a push from the new Ministry of Radio, Cinema and Television – were about to change all that, helping Chinese cinema break onto the world stage. And Zhang Yimou was one of the ones leading the charge. But did the Chinese government expect the types of films they would be getting? Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we dig into Chinese cinema and kick off our Zhang Yimou series with his third film, Ju Dou.

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