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Hero: Placing Asian Cinema within National and International Boundaries

“Is the sword the only answer?”
~ Broken Sword in Hero (2002)

Zhang Yimou remains to be the most famous of mainland Chinese filmmakers working today, yet his greatest works were made during the early phase of his career in the early 1990s with critically-acclaimed sociopolitical films such as Ju Dou (1990), Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and To Live (1994).  In 2002, two years after the international success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Zhang released Hero, his first ever martial arts film starring some of the biggest names in Chinese cinema, including Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi. 

Hero is perhaps the most intriguing film in Zhang’s oeuvre – it is distinctively a Chinese film, yet it seems to be imbued with an international sensibility.  But unlike Lee Ang who directed Crouching Tiger, Hero also appears to be a strong exercise in auteurism as Zhang flaunts his visual style, in particular his “compositional skills and the use of colour” (Zhang, 2008, p. 121…

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