Saturday, October 02, 2004

Oh yeah, I finally saw Hero last night. Very beautiful, but I kept thinking to myself, "Ezra Pound would've loved this movie." I mean, the scenario celebrates fascism, or at any rate a single strong leader, willing to kill untold thousands for the supposed security of future millions, and feeling his own pain the whole time. Everyone's falling over themselves to sacrifice themselves for the noble cause of "Our Land." He also would have loved the bit about calligraphy as swordplay, and while he might have nodded at the idea that the ultimate warrior ultimately discards the sword, Pound himself was ever quick on the draw with his rapier. Most disturbing in this context is the King of Qin's plan to regularize the alphabet: the news that there are 19 ways to draw the ideogram for "sword" disturbs him and he swears to eliminate this diversity in the name of purer communication. Maybe that sounds reasonable to you, but consider how the film effectively shows the king putting this policy into practice by having his army fire thousands of arrows through the thin roof and walls of... a calligraphy school. Perhaps Pound wouldn't have been as excited by those images (though it's splendid to see Maggie Cheung and Jet Li balletically deflecting the arrows). It's like a Western where the cowboys who have "won" the West for civilization can no longer find a place in it, only here the cowboys are more or less explicitly artists whose time has passed. An elegy for diversity in expression, and a grim affirmation of the power of the State. The popcorn kind of sticks in your throat once you've realized that.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I saw Hero today and ould not agree more with you. Gorgeous, fantastic martial arts, but ... umm, hello? Is anyone thinking about the implicit, even explicit, messages being expounded here? I'm all for ignoring the oft-times shakey moral or intellectual underpinnings of popular entertainments, but when was there ever a movie so (unconsciously?) at war with art? Weird. And funny we both thought of Pound.

Happy birthday, by the way.

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