shadow review

It’s hard to talk about Shadow without mentioning Zhang Yimou’s previous effort, Matt Damon-starrer The Great Wall, from which it could not feel more different. While the latter was accused of whitewashing based on the trailers, its true nature was much more troubling: backed by China Film Group, The Great Wall was a very literal propaganda movie about the West accepting the superior might of the Chinese military. It was also effective as a piece of pop filmmaking, with soldiers in candy-coloured armour fighting off jade green alien invaders (no, really), as if filtering the palette of his House of Flying Daggers through a million computers, which makes this new bare-bones approach to period drama a notable directorial 180.

For one thing, Shadow features almost no colour. That is to say, it’s a film shot in colour, but featuring mostly by black and white and grey, but more so than its stripped-down production design, it features a far more stripped-down ethos, to the point that little in the film actually matters. Take away Chinese government money, and you’re left with a Zhang who doesn’t need to deliver a specific message; so he doesn’t, by design, for better and for worse.

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The third day of the Film 4 Frightfest has come to a blood-soaked close and I’ve made it back safely to camp. From where I’m sitting now (slouched, in fact, and really quite exhausted from all of this sitting in the dark) this year’s Frightfest is already one of the two or three best yet, and Frightfest itself has bloomed into the single most exciting genre fest in the UK. Come along next August and join in, I could use some folks to lunch with.

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