Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1911 (2011) Celebrating Chinese New Year

Billed as Jackie Chan's 100th film (depending upon how you count it might be his 109th),this is a story of the Chinese revolution that brought down the Qing Dynasty.

As the populace begins open revolt and falling in behind Sun YatSen and his allies, the Qing government takes steps to stop them using their "modern" army. Through direct engagement with the Qing military and the behind the scenes political and financial maneuvers across the globe the rebels seek to bring down their hated oppressors.

Jackie Chan plays Huang Xing, one of the leaders of the rebel forces. Having been trained in modern war in Japan, he seeks to turn his rag tag soldiers into a fighting force. He's a man haunted by the losses his men are suffering (the opening failed assault drives him to the brink of suicide). Still he fights on with a intensity that all those around him responds to. The performance is one of Jackie's best, which considering his recent performances in film like Little Big Soldier , Karate Kid, or Shinjuku Incident is saying a great deal.

This is one of the best from the recent crop of films that came out for the anniversary of the 1911 revolution. Where many of the films seemed concerned with the large scale picture and seemed to be full of propaganda, at the loss of the people involved, here is a film that is very much concerned with the people. Here we have characters and not just actors getting a pay check for walk ons.

The film isn't perfect. The film has too many side characters and covers a great deal of time to the point that some events are reduced to being explained via titles on the screen. But at the same time it's no where near as bad as some of the founding of the Communist party films like Beginning of the Great Revival where most of the story was conveyed by titles.

Despite it's flaws the film is amazing. It all carries a strong emotional weight, especially the battle sequences. To me the failed opening attack which is intercut with the young men frolicking in the ocean is one of the most powerful indictments of war and it's loss that you're likely to fine. Its a perfectly contained little sequence...

Unfortunately I only just discovered that the US DVD version is missing about 25 minutes from the Asian Theatrical version. Not only are the minutes missing but you can feel the loss. I originally saw this in an unsubtitled version from China last year and was deeply moved. I was so moved that I wanted to write the film up for the Chinese New Year series. However since the US DVD was coming out 2 weeks before New Year I decided to hold off until I got a subtitled DVD. Watching the US release I was shocked. The pacing was off. Things moved too fast. The opening sequences seemed to be missing something, basically the poetry. The film was only a shadow of itself. (Something confirmed by picking up a subtitled version in Chinatown)

Why did they cut the film? I don't know. I really don't. I'm sure someone thought it was a good idea, but how it was done, cutting sequences apart severely weakens the film.

I like the film, but I love the original version. If you can get a version from a source like Yes Asia, I especially recommend you give the film a try. (Addendum it appears the version playing on pay per view on cable is the full version. I'm confused but still recommend the full film)

1 comment:

  1. I was extremely disappointed watching this movie. Especially the structure of the movie was poor, I was expecting a lot from Jackie Chan's 100th movie and the celebration of the Xinhai revolution exactly 100 years after it happened. Nice review though.