The Banquet (Ye Yan) - 2006
Screening in September at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals
Release in China - Sept 15; Korea - Sept 21.
The Banquet has been described as a loose adaptation of "Hamlet"; it is a tale of fate and revenge set in 10th century China. A new Emperor has usurped the throne through murder. Zhang Ziyi plays the widowed Empress, who marries the new Emperor (Ge You) only to protect herself, but also secretly plots his death with the help of the Crown Prince (Daniel Wu) and the Chief Minister (Ma Jingwu). Yet the Prince and Minister each have their own plans for the throne, and, of course, so does the Emperor. All these intrigues are brought to a climax when the Emperor calls for a lavish banquet, where the murderous plans are set in motion. According to director Feng Xiaogang: "If Hamlet is about a prince who must make a choice involving life and death, then The Banquet is about how each character must face a choice of life or death... All are motivated by desire, but as soon as they have begun their plans must grow more extreme, and they move step-by-step towards the abyss... They do not intend evil, but turn to it out
of self-preservation and ever-growing ambition."
Trailers and "Making of" clips. Hit the play button or select from the drop down box.
Prince Wu Luan
the Grand Marshall
the Marshall's son
08/21/06 - Two sets of posters for The Banquet have been released recently. Below is a set in high resolution
and a previous set from Sina
07/04/06 - A new international trailer for The Banquet has been released which you can download here (6.8 MB). It's set to the haunting theme "The Song of Yue People" as performed by Mongolian singer Tenger.
An exhibit of cosutmes from the film was held in Shanghai, a Chinese fan took some closeup pictures. On the top row are cosutmes worn by Empress Wan (Ziyi) and the Emperor (Ge You), the bottom row shows costumes for Zhou Xun, Daniel Wu (pictured), and the Black Knights. Small placards at the bottom show the costumes in context.
That's Beijing has an excellent interview with The Banquet art director Tim Yip in which he discusses his artistic vision for the film and working with the actresses:
“I had to push Zhang’s age and make her look more powerful but still have innocence in that power,” he says, explaining that he made the shape of her clothing thick and simple in order to enhance her maturity. As Yip planned costumes and art design for The Banquet, he had to balance the sharp, slight features of Zhang with the wide-eyed beauty of Zhou Xun. “Zhou Xun is much easier. You can tell Zhou Xun is there – she’s very powerful, even though her drama is not strong all the time,” explains Ye. “It’s just like in music – I needed a sound to complement the bass – the big sound. Zhang Ziyi was the bass and Zhou Xun was the lighter sound.”...
“When I do Chinese stuff... the good people look like good people and the bad people look like bad people. Chinese storytelling likes to tell you what is right and wrong,” explains Ye. But The Banquet’s plotline demanded a more nuanced approach. “I wanted to go somewhere deep in the human mind. Humans betray, they have desires. They are not constant. I needed a contrast so I reached for Western elements,” he says. “The Western element is mixing in the dark parts of people.” Looking to Renaissance paintings (Caravaggio, in particular) for inspiration, Ye mirrored that genre’s use of color and space to build a sense of moral ambiguity in both his sets and costumes. He gave this idea resonance by muting the palette, by teasing out a rich grayscale, then filigreeing the scenery with swatches of red.
Thanks to Violim Ziyi and Billie-Jean.
05/18/06 - Official trailers released, view at the top of the page.
05/15/06 - Media Asia has unveiled a beautifully designed official English website for The Banquet. Besides the flash animations, the most interesting parts are the production notes from "The Creators", director Feng Xiaogang, choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping, composer Tan Dun, and designer Tim Yip. Below are notes from director Feng
This is a film about desire. Desire doesn't mean a character is predetermined to do something. It rather means he is expanding and changing constantly, goaded on by desire, until he walks closer and closer into an abyss.
The most attractive thing about it is that "crime" is not premeditated but is often the result of self-preservation. Take the Empress for instance. Her first move is to protect herself. Her second move is to protect the Crown Prince. When she discovers that the Prince can no longer be protected, she needs to take things in her own hands... This kind of set-up is more human: as the characters get lost in their desire, the situation becomes uncontrollable, and everything starts changing and developing rapidly.
From the site are two new pictures of Zhang Ziyi as Empress Wan
Pictures of the cast: Ziyi and Ge You in the top row, Zhou Xun and Daniel Wu in the bottom two rows.
and designer Tim Yip's sets
Ziyi gave an interview to CCTV on May 10 (video here, in Mandarin) where she discussed her character, Empress Wan
"She is a very vicious woman. Though kind by nature, she is forced by the surroundings to do everything she can reach her goals with iron-clad determination. This requires the actor to portray her as vicious inside. This is the first time I've done a role of such depth, which is a very satisfying experience."
When asked to describe her character Queen Wan, Ziyi said: "I think my character goes through a lot of emotional struggle and sacrifice. You think she didn't love her husband, the late king? Or even the new Emperor, played by Ge You? She has feelings, too. Ge You's character gives her many things she has never enjoyed or experienced before. What Wu Luan [the Crown prince, played by Daniel Wu] brings out of her is childhood innocence, her deep-buried self. I think Queen Wan very often has to maintain a certain presence just for others."
Later, when answering the question if she liked this conflicted and ultimately tragic character, Ziyi replied: "I found the visual appearance (of Empress Wan) a bit hard to accept in the beginning, because it is mostly red, which gives the impression she is very over-bearing, but I've gradually allowed myself to become her and grown to like that image better and better. I understand why he [Tim Yip, Oscar-winning artistic of Crouching Tiger fame] gave my character such an image. She must have something deep inside her that motivates her to assume such a presence so as to keep the situation under control, though she is not this kind of a person by nature. She must control all those around her and let people know she's the boss. That's why I now like the appearance a lot and I feel it helped us. When you are immersed in such a character, you give the role some more thoughts and details knowingly or otherwise."
Finally, here are scans demonstrating the Empress' dominantly red theme from the May issue Movie View magazine
Thanks to Jim for the translations and Kakamier for the scans.
3/25/06 - Monkeypeaches reports that some action scenes Ziyi filmed for The Banquet may be left out of the Chinese release
According to a Chinese newspaper, Zhang Ziyi's only two action scenes may be included in the international print, but many not show up in the domestic Chinese print. The first scene is the Empress (Zhang Ziyi) and the Crown Prince (Daniel Wu) practicing swords with movements they learnt from the previous emperor. I suspect a few second of the scene is included in the latest teaser trailer. The second scenes is the Empress playing polo with the current Emperor (Ge You). Ge You suggested to limit the weight of Zhang Ziyi's action in the film because she had already done that so many times and director Feng Xiaogang agreed. He said Zhang Ziyi's performance was so good that no action was needed to strengthen her role. Feng would cut these scenes because he believes they were not closely related to the main storyline. Feng said he would avoid showing lavish fight scenes with a weak story.
He also remarks on how the international distribution is shaping up
The Banquet will be released in China this September, by which it will be qualified for the Best Foreign Language Film Award of next year's Oscar. Reportedly, this film has been selling very well internationally. Media Asia, co-producer of the film, will release it in Hong Kong. Gaga Communications Inc. acquired the Japanese rights with US$5 million. The unidentified Korean distributor is now pushing for a simultaneous in the country. Release in Southeast Asia is also being secured. Rights in seven European countries have already been sold and a deal for UK release will be signed soon. Distribution in France and Germany are currently in negotiation. Several US distributors, including Paramount, WB and Miramax, have shown their interests on the film, after a 15 minute featurette was shown at American Film Market last November.
03/22/06 - A twenty second teaser trailer for The Banquet that aired on Chinese television earlier this week.
|Banquet teaser - 1 MB wmv|
Also, a higher quality picture of the poster
03/06/06 - The MediaAsia website has added a page devoted to The Banquet. It includes an evocative and detailed synopsis, part of it is below
As beautiful as she is young and as limber as she is smart, Empress Wan (Ziyi Zhang) can launch a thousand ships with her charm and fight a hundred soldiers with her sword. But something is lacking in her life. Unfulfilled in her royal boudoir, she harbors forbidden desires for her stepson Wu Luan (Daniel Wu), an introverted and melancholic young man four months her senior, who shies away from the palace to indulge in the ancient art of music and dance.
When the Emperor dies all of a sudden and his virile younger brother Li (Ge You) succeeds the throne, Wan shocks everyone by agreeing to marry Li, convinced that this is the only way to protect Wu Luan while sealing her own position in the court. But Li is no fool. However infatuated he might be with his sister-in-law, he only pretends to buy into her scheme in order to consummate his lust. Oblivious to Wan, he has dispatched his underlings to off his nephew... (more)
Also, here is a three-minute preview reel that was shown last month at the Berlin Film Festival, unfortunately the audio quality is very poor: Banquet preview - 8 MB wmv. Some screenshots are below
03/06/06 - A few pictures with Daniel Wu, who plays the Prince.
01/23/06 - A video of Ziyi and Zhou Xun having fun at a party celebrating the end of filming. At the end there is a closeup of her autographing a new promo pic from the movie.
|Ziyi and Zhou Xun - 4 MB wmv|
11/25/05 - Pictures from the set of The Banquet, as constructed in the Anji bamboo forest near the city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. (Parts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were also filmed in this forest.) In the story, the Crown Prince (Daniel Wu) leaves the royal palace after his father is killed by the new Emperor. He flees to this forest retreat to lead a life immersed in the arts, until he gathers the courage to seek revenge. Below is the set along with various characters in costume, including black knights, an artisan, and singers.
An unknown actor on horseback, along with director Feng Xiaogang and choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping.
Thanks to Phi for the correction regarding Daniel Wu.
Older news - The Banquet news archive