Image B Sound A Extras D
starring Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye
screenplay by Zhang Yimou, Wu Nan, Bian Zhihong
directed by Zhang Yimou
by Walter Chaw I recently had the opportunity to see for the first time the cut of Zhang Yimou's virtuoso Hero prepared for Yankee viewers, complete with the subtitles and framing cards slapped on by American distributors. Before now, the only contact I'd had with the film was through a region-free DVD from Hong Kong that preceded the U.S. theatrical release by a couple of years. (After buying the rights to it, Miramax, you'll recall, decided to sit on it until such time as its unleashing wouldn't somehow interfere with timeless masterpieces of misguided schlock like Cold Mountain.) Anyway, I was appalled. The extent to which Hero has been dumbed-down--the insertion of "our country" for a term that means, in Mandarin, "beneath the sky" drums up this weird nationalistic gumbo at the end where, before, it was sober and idealistic--manages to paint Zhang as the worst kind of toad. There's an animated map at the beginning now, I guess to show the great unwashed American moron that there is land outside the range of purple mountains majesty, while much mystical bullshit about "over two thousand years ago" mainly obscures the fact that Hero takes place well over two thousand years ago. I feel a lot of anger towards what's been done to one of the best films ever to come out of the Mainland to make it more suited for white consumption, both because of the sacrilege and because whoever's responsible has a lot of answering to do for how far they've undersold the intelligence of Western audiences. I finally understand why a lot of people in the United States didn't think much of Hero: the version I saw was a Zhang Yimou picture, whereas the version most in this country saw was a Miramax picture.