Course connections to the film “House of Flying Daggers”

Contact: Erik Esckilsen — esckilse@champlain.edu, (802) 651-5972

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

Tuesday, Sept. 13 — Alumni Auditorium — 7 p.m. — FREE!

Introduction: Director Zhang Yimou is perhaps the most acclaimed filmmaker working in the People’s Republic of China today. A member of China’s Fifth Generation of filmmakers — the first filmmakers to enter and graduate from the Beijing Film Academy following the Cultural Revolution — he is known in the West for such spectacles as Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers, and the quirky A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle shop — his 2010 ancient Chinese reinterpretation of the Coen Brothers’ breakout film, Blood Simple (1984). Zhang also directed the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies. Here’s Zhang’s Wikipedia entry.

Digital Film Making: Although Zhang is an arguable darling of the Chinese cultural establishment, he, like many filmmakers in China, has been periodically banned from making films and has seen his films banned. He’s a complicated figure in a complicated time, one who raises compelling questions about artistic integrity in the face of a government notoriously squeamish about criticism. Among the questions we might ask about House of Flying Daggers: Do we suspect this film about China was made to appeal more to western or Chinese perceptions of China? Is Zhang a sellout as some suggest?

International Business: Here’s a work by the People’s Republic of China’s most renowned film director on the global movie scene. What benefits, in terms of global perceptions of China, does a film such as this one offer China? We all know that the U.S.A. is a major film exporter around the world. Is it possible that such spectacular fare as Zhang has produced could one day position China as a rival to American dominance of the global film market? What do we see when we investigate the financing of Zhang’s films? To what extent is investment in major motion pictures — those made in the U.S.A. as well as in China — an example of globalization?

Rhetoric: How does a film work as rhetoric? Is its thesis implicit or explicit? What messages does it convey, and what are the strategies in play?

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