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Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004

Lovers' bites

Promoting "House of Flying Daggers," director Zhang Yimou was in Tokyo for the fourth time in as many years recently, after visiting with "The Road Home," "Happy Times" and "Hero."

News photo
Zhang Yimou

Accompanying him were action director Tony Ching, and stars Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhang Ziyi, the latter two representing the "killer app" of Asian cinema. Kaneshiro enjoys that special adulation the Japanese reserve for one of their own who's succeeded abroad; Zhang, meanwhile has gone from "new face" in "The Road Home," to hit after hit: "Crouching Tiger," "Hero" "Musa," and then there's the new Wong Kar-wai film, "2046."

On playing their roles:

TK: Playing this love that grows so deeply over only three days, I wasn't sure what to do. I'd ask the director: "I'm not sure of this, why is he so in love with her, when does he love her, when is it just his job?" The director would just say, "There's no reason with love." He didn't really want to settle on one moment when Jin would fall for Shaomei. So for me, too, I played it a scene at a time.

ZZ: For me, Shaomei was very complicated to play. I haven't had such a deep experience as her, so for me, the important thing was to create some space, think about it, and act. In my opinion, it's impossible to explain emotions.

On directing the film's action sequences:

TC: If you consider what genre this film belongs to, it's totally different from "Hero." In "Hero," our method was to tell a story within a story, but this time we wanted to shoot a story with human emotions that was close to reality. The director requested that the drama between the characters be more important than the action.

On the difficulties of the shoot:

TC: I guess, the most difficult aspect was the locations -- shooting outdoors. The weather on the locations had a lot of sudden changes. Sometimes it would be clear, then rainy, then it would snow. And if we'd plan on snow, then it wouldn't come. So we lost a lot of shooting time waiting for the right weather. And it was a hard shoot for the three lead actors. They had to use real swords and spears, and perfectly execute the fight scenes, which is potentially quite dangerous. Fortunately, we had no major injuries, but I think everybody did get some sort of hurt.

TK: The most difficult part for me was when it was just the lead actors fighting each other; I didn't like that. Why? Because we'd actually hit each other! (Laughs.) When it was a stuntman facing you, you'd really do it much better. But I'd always be pleading with the director, saying, hey, as much as humanly possible, let's try not to have the actors fighting each other! (Laughs.) But the director insisted that he wanted that drama.

On the film's love triangle:

ZY: These two male characters may fall in love with the same woman, but they're two totally different types. With Zhang Ziyi and Kaneshiro Takeshi, the love that develops between their characters is quite sudden. Nobody can say for sure how or when it happened. They just fall in love, very intensely. It's the type of intense emotion experienced in youth. They kept asking me, at what point, what scene, what cut, do they fall in love? But their love could become real at any point, anytime, we don't know. But they're being watched by a third part, Andy Lau's character. So even if they were really in love, they have to suppress it.

Andy Lau's love for her is a different sort of love. For example, it's like with sake: You can keep it on the shelf for a long time, and it keeps fermenting. But, as you know, as the years go by, the purity increases. But with this love, it's excessive: The sake's too pure, and it bursts into fire.

On the film's opening dance scene:

ZY: I had originally brought in an expert in Tang Dynasty dance, and spent two months studying that. But when it came time to shoot, I remembered Tony, who's been such an inspiration to me in the past. So I let Tony shoot it like an action scene and just told the dance instructor "please stand aside."

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