I think I mentioned this before re Zhang Yimou: I had a good dose of his films in college, and I cherished how he made compelling dramas, and how good his cinematography treatment was.
I’m not a big martial arts movie fan. My parents exposed the family to what is commercially deemed as good movies, most Hollywood movies should generally be ok, Tagalog movies are mostly crap, and martial arts movies are crude, so if ever one considers watching any of the sort, take it in as tongue-in-cheek entertainment (though my mom was a proud Vilamanian, and my father a Noranian). Now I guess I’m on the losing end here, because of lost opportunities to catch any relevant cinematic piece cast with a Chinese tongue.
Hero didn’t leave me breathless (I watched the movie after Magnifico: bad move), but I give it credit for the amazing visuals. I’d give House of Flying Daggers/Shi mian mai fu the same credit, and the feeling of this done in the traditional martial arts movie vein -remember, I’m just guessing here- seems comforting and unsettling at the same time: comforting, because the tradition is kept alive, unsettling, because I find Zhang Yimou as a more potent drama-director, where he often tells a pretty good story that actually makes simple sense.