Typhoon Day Movie: 赤壁 Red Cliff

I’ve decided to be cautious and spend Friday evening inside, impatiently waiting for Soudelor 蘇迪羅 to come do its thing and go away. Not a drop has fallen yet, but I’m telling myself it’s probably wiser not being out and about, risking getting blown over onto the ground by the strong winds while bicycling, as it almost happened a while ago.

Since we’re likely all going to be stranded at home on Saturday, let me take this opportunity to share one of my all-time favorite movies, Red Cliff 赤壁. This Chinese epic war film is split in two parts of about 120 minutes each, long enough to provide entertainment for a rainy afternoon.

Yes, epic war as in Game of Thrones, but without the treasons that abounded left and right in the last season, not to mention the leaders who couldn’t lead, or some characters in serious need of an appointment at the psychiatrist. In Red Cliff, you’ll get the appreciate the art of war (although Sun Tzu 孫子 isn’t included), and even some “normal” romance. Come to think of it, a crossover between the two may be kind of cool, hehe.

The international version with English subtitles was shortened to 148 minutes. If you end up liking it, then I can only suggest to follow-up with the full-length version and put your Chinese reading/listening skills to good use. 😉

Being unfamiliar with the story of the Three Kingdoms or Chinese literature in general, I was totally lost during my first viewing. Still, I was entirely captivated by the astounding cinematography, the enthralling soundtrack, and the professional acting of the well-selected all-star cast. In it, Taiwanese-Japanese Takeshi Kaneshiro plays the role of the wise Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (also referred, in the movie, by his courtesy name, 孔明), a character that suits him perfectly!

I regularly re-watch the movie and always notice a few new details or pick up on some new Chinese vocabulary. Someday, I’ll get myself to read the illustrated 10 volumes series of the Three Kingdoms that I bought a good while back, and maybe everything will finally click! On one occasion, I watched it with a sinophile friend who had read the Three Kingdoms, and she fell in love with the movie as well, especially enjoying seeing those famous literary characters in flesh and motion.

One of them being Guan Yu 關羽, which you may be more familiar with under the name of Guan Gong 關公, and have undoubtedly passed by him at least once at a Taoist temple in Taiwan, where he represents the God of War, a beloved figure who people pray to to protect them against this or that.

To get a real taste of the movie, check out the Chinese trailer which has some dialogues (in case you skipped it, the English one doesn’t). I don’t know what the native Chinese speakers think of the movie, but as a learner of the language, I always enjoy listening to the clear and crisp Chinese spoken by the characters, which has me wish that some day, I too, can speak Chinese with similar fluency and grace. Keep on dreamin’ 吧. 🙄


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