Friday, February 1, 2013

Sacrifice -

An epic tail of manipulation, betrayal, murder, and what happens when you just can't let things go.

So, we started our year off with a bang, watching "Sacrfice", a classic, epic, loooooong Chinese style tale of epic manipulation and tragedy. We weren't sure of the punching, kicking, swords, with the SCHA-WIIIIING... but it looked good, and there is a cute baby involved. And who doesn't love a classic Chinese tail of manipulation, betrayal, death and burning?

Sacrifice is a 2010 film written by Ningyu Zhao, directed by Kaige Chen, and stars:
-You Ge
-Xueqi Wang
-Xioaming Huang
- Bing Bing Fan
... and a WHOLE other huge cast of poeple.

Our film starts during one of the MANY feudal time in Chinese history. Is this story based on real events ? Pffft... we don't really know. Could be. China has probably one of the most complex, diverse, socially colorful, never ending, massively sized feudal histories that has ever been documented.


The story is set in the Jin state (11th Century BC), which was part of the Zhou Dynasty. The Jin state has fallen apart and has been split into three squabbling states: Han, Zhou, and Wei. This move ended the "Spring & Autumn Period", and marks the beginning of the "Warring States Period". Good times...

Ok so, our story begins as follows: The leader of the state is a bumbling moron. He was put into place as a puppet for the General of Badassery, Tu'An Gu, and has pretty much been manipulated the entirety of his life. And, this is not uncommon in these stories. The leader's sister is Princess Zhuang, and she is married into the Zhao family.  Soon the Princess Zhuang shows up on the scene preggers and with husband (General Zhao Shuo), in tow. General Zhao and his Dad, Zhao Dun, have a bit of a terse relationship with Tu'An Gu. 

NOW, in a random noodle house along the processional route, you are introduced to Dr. Chen Ying, who has been asked to check up on the pregnant princess as she prepares to deliver a son, and heir, to the Zhao family. Dr. Chen's wife has juuuust delivered a son of their own. Keep that in your mind for later. It's important.

Ok. So, in the interest of you all, and to prevent an insane amount of confusing story line twists and turns, and subtleties that are larger implications of stuff and things... we will sum up the structure of the first half of the film as follows:

Tu'An Gu is a bad man. A very, VERY bad man. His interested are in power and domination. And, since he has no wife to keep him in check or to soften his demeanor (as is the case in most historical films), no children to lose to war, he's just a bad man.

He sets up an elaborate scheme to kill the ruler of the state, but frame the Zhao family. Upon this framing, he intends to "justifiably" slaughter the Zhao family as traitors... including the unborn baby. BUT, he sort of wants to spare Princess Zhuang... because she's pretty hott. 

Death and burning, General Zhao dies in the arms of Princess Zhuang. She goes into labor. Baby is born. She asks the doctor to sneak the baby out of the guest house. Right hand man to Tu'An Gu shows up to confiscate said baby. Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle... sword drawn, bad guy slips on a fish, baby flies through the air, princess kills herself as a distraction technique and point of bargaining, baby escapes with doctor, right hand man gets his eye cut out for letting it happen.

Ok. Ya' got all of that? 
Let's move on.

So, Doctor Chen is trying to rush home with the Zhao family baby. His wife has a newborn baby as well, so the doctor "asks" her to be the wet nurse to the baby. Naturally she's a bit pissed off by this as her husband has now put his entirely family in peril as the baby-hunt is on by Tu'An and his henchmen. He heads out to find the "point man" that he has been instructed to hand the baby off to. While the doctor is out, the henchmen go door-to-door all "Moses and the Pharoah" like, collecting all of the baby boys for ransom. See, their going to find this Zhao kid, even if it wastes time and resources and makes Tu'An look like a giant jackass. Because Tu'An WILL have the last word. And that's final. Period.

So, the Zhao baby get's taken, the doctor's baby get's left behind. The husband is irate with his wife. He  quickly develops an elaborate scheme wherein he sends his wife and son into hiding while he tries to get the Zhao baby back, claiming a switched at the crib scenario. 

The guards and Tu'An threaten to kill all of the boy babies unless the pilferer of the Zhao baby comes forth. Yaddah yaddah yaddah, the doctor gets the baby back, claims that his wife escaped the city with the baby and Mr. Point Man. Tu'An heads out to investigate, find the Point Man, the Doctor's wife, and their son... slaughters them all, punting their sun into the floor as if he'd made a Hail Mary touchdown, and then hands the living Zhao family baby back to Doctor Chen, because... well, let's be honest. I think even Tu'An was confused by all of this Scooby Doo back and forth business. 

And it is at this point that you WILL want a box of kleenex as this whole thing is about 60 minutes of sad, sad, sad slaughter of innocent people. 

Ok. NOW to get into the meat portion of the movie. You are left with the inconsolably destroyed Dr. Chen and the helplessly orphaned Zhao baby. Dr. Chen goes home, locks the baby safely away and proceeds to drink himself stupid. How many days is he out? Who knows. But when Chen awakens, he realizes what he's done and rushes off to check on the well being of the baby. THANK GOD all is ok. He dedicates himself at this point to raise the baby as his son, according to the wishes of Princess Zhuang. Insert montage of him scraggly and worn looking, feeding rice porridge to this infant, mumbling to himself... (insert the crying here)

All of sudden, one night, a young man with a gashed up face comes to his door for help. He's obviously an outcast or bandit trying to NOT be seen... OH WAAAAAAIT!!! It's that fish slipper from the palace! His life was spare, his face mangled, and essentially given a "dishonorable discharge" for being an utter screwup. Dr. Chen heals his face, and over time they become friends and discuss the future of the infant Zhao. With time it is revealed that Dr. Chen intends to raise the child, allow him to get close to Tu'An so that he may murder and thus avenge his family line AND Dr. Chen's family as well.

Shortly after this conversation, Dr. Chen marches to the palace and pretty much demands that Tu'An take him in because "YOU OWE ME!!!", which in our book was a pretty bold step. Bravo Chen. Bravo. And so the painstaking process of "forming a bond between the man you despise and the surrogate child you have come to love in order to pull off THE BEST payback of epic burnination ever" begins.

Insert a long montage regarding Tu'An becoming close to Chen's adopted son, spoiling, training to become a guard, lectures on trusting no-one, angst, burning, rejection, denial... And yes, we're sort of glossing over this because, if we give too much away there will be nothing for you to truly enjoy in this film.

The whole film ends with a gut wrenching "Go into the light" montage that one cannot aptly summarize for the purposes of this blog. However, the story is good, the ending is in fact gut wrenching, the costuming is SUPERAWESOMAZING, the cinematography great, the storyline is one of classical Chinese political power struggles. Not a whole lot of WHAPUTCAH (punching) in this film. But, it is a good film. 

SO, enough with this typing and talking. Go rent it. Watch it. Love it. Bring your Kleenex. Meet us here again next week (hopefully) where we will discuss the finer points of "Merantau: Becoming a Man, Indonesia style"

- The Mavens

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