“House of Flying Daggers,” debuting at the Smith Opera House on March 3, is the latest work from Chinese director Yimou Zhang, whose stunning epic “Hero” graced American screens less than six months ago.
“Flying Daggers” is primarily the story of Mei (the lovely Zhang Ziyi, from “Hero” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). She starts out as a blind dancer in a tea house near the end of the Tang dynasty, but two local sheriffs suspect she may be a high-ranking member of an assassination organization called the Flying Daggers.
The two officers — played by Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau — decide to capture and then trick Mei, hoping she will lead them to her fellow assassins. This begins a long trek of betrayals, revelations and dangerous encounters, a spinning triangle of deception that keeps the viewer guessing for most of the film's length.
As he's proved in movies such as “Raise the Red Lantern,” “Red Sorghum” and, most recently, “Hero,” Zhang is a master of cinematic raptures. From an astonishing battle in an emerald bamboo forest, where even the mist seems tinted green, to a fierce final duel that goes on so long the russet and golds of late autumn give way to the white-on-white blankness of an early winter storm, “House of Flying Daggers” dazzles with one show-stopper after another.
“House of Flying Daggers” combines an old-fashioned sense of elegance and story with very modern techniques and a classic appreciation of treachery and deception. It seems the confluence of a thousand artistic influences and yet completely unique. “House of Flying Daggers” is a breathtaking excursion into landscapes of the mind and eye you've never imagined.
The Smith screens “House of Flying Daggers” at 7 p.m. March 3, 4, and 5, and at 2 p.m. March 6. Rated PG-13 for sequences of stylized martial arts violence, and some sexuality, this film has a running time of one hours, 59 minutes. It is in Mandarin with subtitles. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. All seats are $3 on Thursday. Call 781-5483 or toll-free (866) 355-5483 for details or to reserve tickets.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. The Smith is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.