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Ye Yan

The Banquet
Legend of the Black Scorpion

China 2006
produced by
John Chong, Wang Zhongjun, Wang Zhonglei (executive), Yuen Woo-Ping (executive) for Huayi Brothers, Media Asia, China Film Co-Production Corp
directed by Feng Xiaogang
starring Zhang Ziyi, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Ge You, Ma Jingwu, Huang Xiaoming
screenplay by Sheng Heyu, Qiu Gangjian, loosely based on Hamlet by William Shakespeare, music by Dun Tan, action choreography by Yuen Stunt Team


review by
Mike Haberfelner

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China 907 AD, the Tang Dynasty has come to an end, and the land is in turmoil (the period is also known as the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms): Li (Ge You) has just killed his brother, the Emperor, and usurped his throne, but much more than that, he has also taken his widow, Wan (Zhang Ziyi), the Empress Dowager, and has made her Empress again - and somehow she seems to be all too willing to become his consort ... but actually she worries not so much about power but about Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu), her stepson and the rightful heir to the throne, with whom she has long had a secret relationship. And indeed, Li has already sent out his assassins to kill Wu Luan, who has more interests in the arts than in politics anyways, but is a well-enough fighter to escape death and make it to the Imperial Palace unscathed.

Emperor Li though has a lot of other ideas to have Wu Luan killed, like having him stabbed in a public swordsplay demonstration - where he is only just saved by the Empress - or sending him to the neighbouring Khitan Empire as part of a peace-keeping hostage exchange program while at the same time ensuring that he never arrives ...

Still, the Empress has learned about this plot as well and puts a diabolical plan into action: She knows that minister Win's (Ma Jingwu) daughter Quin (Zhou Xun) is in love with Wu Luan, so she takes her hostage and forces the minister - who is such a weasel that he managed to stay loyal to the last three emperors - to make his son, an army general (Huang Xiaoming), save Wu Luan from certain doom.

Back at the palace, the Emperor is preparing for a Banquet while the Empress is preparing for his death, having acquired a most potent poison to add to his wine - something the minister and his son have grown wise about but they dare not inform the Emperor feating for Quin's life.

At the Banquet though. everathing ends in turmoil when, much to the horror of the minister and his son, Quin drinks from the Emperor's wine and dies on the spot. When the Emperor realizes his own wife has tried to poison him, he is shattered and kills himself by drinking from the wine too. Wu Luan enters the stage, ready to inherit the throne after all and embrace his love, the Empress, when the minister's son attacks the empress with a sword. Wu Luan catches the sword with his hand, but the sword was tipped in poison, and within minutes he dies while the Empress stabs her assailant to death.

Though the Empress has now lost everybody, she's at the peak of her power, being the sole ruler of the kingdom ... but not for long, because in the closing shot, she too is stabbed by a person unknown ...


A very loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet that rearranges the story considerably and shifts its focus to the central female character - which is in this case an excellent choice because the central female character is played by Zhang Ziyi, who once more demonstrates her superior acting skills and her ability to carry this kind, any kind of film. But even if she is impossible to overlook, the film doesn't begin and end with Zhang Ziyi: The film is beautifully photographed, beautifully choreographed (and I don't just mean the martial arts sequences, which are rather scarce anyways - after all, this is not a martial arts film as such), and isn't boring for even one minute despite lengthy dialogues and the occasional extended quiet scene.



review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD