Connect with us
'Shadow' feels like a triumph of martial arts cinema that feels like a masterclass in how to tell a story with action.

Film

TIFF 2018: ‘Shadow’ is an Ink Wash Painting Brought to Life

‘Shadow’ feels like a triumph of martial arts cinema that feels like a masterclass in how to tell a story with action.

When a movie looks as damn good as Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, it’s hard not to overpraise it. By utilizing entirely monochromatic costume and production design, Zhang has completely outdone himself in terms of creating a visual feast. Nothing this year will compare to the immaculately-conceived sets and bleak aesthetic that Zhang employs to tell a Shakespearean tale of betrayal and love among two rival Chinese clans fighting for control of a city called Jing, and ultimately the kingdom of Pei.

Evoking the visuals of a Chinese ink-wash painting, there is literally no moment in Shadow that looks even average. The sumptuous imagery pairs quite nicely with the intricate, twisting story. Deng Chao stars as Pei’s military commander, a man driving a plot to overthrow the king (Ryan Zheng), who has gone insane with power. To do so, he employs a “shadow” (also played by Deng) to act as the commander when necessary. Much of the narrative feels Shakespearean in its high politics mixed with romance and intrigue; smaller characters feel like they were ripped straight from Hamlet, while the bigger swaths of story feel evocative of Macbeth. In fact, a lot of the early parts of the film feel akin to Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, which itself was an adaptation of Macbeth.

Shadow

Zhang’s tricky plot has enough to chew on for those who want a more classic tale of betrayal amidst the backdrop of war, and the story lends itself to the black, white and grey color palette really well. What heightens it all is the fact that this is still a Wuxia film, complete with the reddest of blood, grandiose action scenes, and so much style in its choreography and camerawork that it would send most martial arts directors back to the drawing board.

Shadow all boils down to a third act that employs umbrellas as a form of weaponry against Peis enemies, moving gracefully among sabers and knives as rain pelts down onto their metal exterior. Throw in some projectile blades, and Shadow winds up with some inventive action scenes that hold your attention beyond how they look visually — they also astound in how they’re employed. Snippets of action precede the third act, which explodes into a mesmerizing, moving portrait of blood and mud. Umbrellas twirl and spin against the blade of a saber, while the sound effects of metal hitting metal are just as loud and abrasive as the sudden gut-churning slash of a blade cutting into the skin of an enemy.

Shadow

There really isn’t much like Shadow, even with the fairly classicist approach it takes in the beginning. Zhang is making martial arts movies for the arthouse crowd, and though there may not be as much action as I would have liked, the conversations and plot points they set up are  enrapturing. The film doesn’t hang its hat on its visuals (though it easily could have), but instead really makes use of the aesthetic to tell a story that meshes with it. It’s a triumph of martial arts cinema that feels like a masterclass in how to tell a story with action.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6 – September 16. Visit the official website for more information.

Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Flo Milli Ends Performance After Fans Hurl Objects At Her, Gunna Shows Support

Celebrity

Who is Jacob Batalon, and where is he now?

Celebrity

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ 7 Kids: Everything to Know

Celebrity

Who is Emma Stone’s Husband: What You Need to Know about Dave McCary!

Celebrity

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande constitute the global viewers’ attention “All About the Wicked” movie cast.

Celebrity

Latto Pulled Up To Angel Reese’s WNBA Debut In Style

Celebrity

Offset Claps Back At Fan Over Festival Performance Comments

Celebrity

Tim McGraw Wife and Children: Explore America’s Country Singer Relationship Journey!

Celebrity

Bernard Hill Cause of Death: Titanic Movie Captain Dies at 79!

Celebrity

Who Is Sabrina Ionescu’s Husband? A Relationship Timeline with Hroniss Grasu!

Celebrity

Who Is Mahershala Ali’s Wife? Discover the Time He Got the Love of His Life!

Celebrity

Abigail Breslin Net Worth 2024: What Is The Actress Worth?

Celebrity

DJ Akademiks’ Instagram Account Mysteriously Disappears, Fans Craft Their Theories As To Why

Celebrity

Who Is Christopher Lloyd’s Wife? For How Long Has He Married Lisa?

Celebrity

Who Is Paul Stanley’s Wife? Discover Paul Stanley’s Marriage Life!

Celebrity

Who Is Gavin Rossdale’s Girlfriend? Know More About British Singer’s Girlfriend!

Celebrity

Connect