Reading over my blog, I’m mildly astounded to find that I’ve never written a word about Zhang Yimou in the years I’ve been online gabbing about movies. Crazy. Granted, the Zhang movies that made a difference to me as a critic are the movies that came out well before I started down that path: Raise the Red Lanterns, for sure, but also Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower, among others. But still, even The Great Wall probably demanded* some amount of consideration.
So let’s rectify this omission in 2019, the year Shadow drops in theaters (this Friday, in fact, in the Boston area). Shadow steps away from the style Zhang is known for; it’s sapped of color, the element that made Hero such a draw to audiences unfamiliar with Zhang back in the early 2000s**. But the absence of color makes the movie stand out from his other films, and, more than that, it clarifies the human component of his narrative. Frankly, it looks absolutely stunning, more so than his color-forward movies if you ask me.
I dug up my sleeves and dissected color in Zhang’s work and why Shadow is better off presented in grayscale over at RogerEbert.com.
*Fine, you got me, it didn’t.
**I’m aware a certain demographic of movie nuts knew about Zhang before Hero, but the average American didn’t. If I’m being honest, the average American probably still didn’t know who Zhang was post-Hero, but the movie did introduce him to American audiences, even if only on a limited scale.