The Weekend: Of Steam and Red Cliffs

This past weekend was the time when and I were supposed to be at SteamCon in Seattle. Alas, for reasons previously explained, we were unable to attend.

The SteamCon Twitter Feed has been aggregating convention reports and pictures, though — so if, like us, you were not able to be there, you can at least see what you missed, and regret.

In place of surrounding ourselves with Steamy Goodness, we instead took the opportunity this weekend to watch the two-film, four-hour original Chinese version of John Woo’s Red Cliff (edited down to a single 2 1/2 hour film for the ‘international edition’ currently making its way through art-house cinemas here in the US).

Wow — FANTASTIC. The story will be familiar to fans of the Dynasty Warriors video game series, or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms — the battles for China circa 208 A.D.. The iconic characters are all present: Liu Bei, Zhou Yu, Sun Quan, Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao, etc. — and played by the top actors in Asian cinema.

Most of all, though, this is a Woo film. His trademarks are there: slow-mo, the freeze-frame reaction shot, and, of course, doves. It’s his first period film since 1978’s Last Hurrah for Chivalry, and it’s fascinating to see the techniques that I normally associate with his modern-era films used in a historical epic.

From what I’m hearing, the edited version in US theatres (which was edited down by Woo himself, so that’s something, at least) is also very good — go and see it. But if you have the option available, also try to get ahold of the original, which was released on DVD in Asia already, and is available in multi-region from several internet mail-order sites (as well as other, less strictly legal methods online).

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