We are getting ready. We changed the chronology of the Korean War. We are ready to point out the most likely historical arrangements to satisfy the purists while ignoring some ideological biases, to forgive the very obvious concessions… All that to protect what is left of the great HK brain cinema, the fierce skids of Dante Lam and especially the skillful flights of the enormous Tsui Hark. In vain.
Literally commissioned by China’s central military commission and propaganda department as part of the party’s 100th anniversary celebration, The Battle of Lake Changjin almost impossible to guarantee. Indeed, there is no need to condense our history lessons: his propagandist tendencies are clear. Moreover, if this fantasy trio of filmmakers is to be believed, it is because another former muse of Hong Kong cinema, Andrew Lau, is busy polishing his own praise to the local authorities, Chinese Doctors. An observation that we are very happy to draw in France, because the former Chinese journalist who dared to criticize the paper justified by his country in social networks ended up in the post…
Mao Zedong, a good man, deep down
Our hopes are not so foolish : a few months ago landed in France, under the same conditions, another Chinese mega-blockbuster rewriting history according to its wishes, The Brigade of 800. Its director Guan Hu and his co-screenwriter Ge Rui, well aware of the kind of spectacle they are offering, do not hesitate to consider the ambiguities of its patriotism. We can even imagine that they make the heroic sacrifice of their characters the result of a stupid conflict with nature, which is like, in the end, the best American war films of the 1980s and 1990s.
A kind of retreat rejected from the endless first 40 minutes of The Battle of Lake Changjinconsisting mostly of big, passionate speeches, touching military salutes given in front of the homeland bathed in eternal light, telephone preparations for payment, connected to a sticky overlay of fire music . Everything is false and therefore enough to erase the slightest emotion in favor of national pride with, as the horizon line, an epilogue that one would believe was written by a committee (and perhaps this is the case). Inevitably, in the middle, it is difficult to recognize any seriousness in the battles, but not stingy with explosions of all kinds.
Hark of Triumph
There is no interest in these character-functions, martyrs in the service of a cause in which it is impossible to give the least confidence, we chase long action sequences. After all, in The Battle of Tiger MountainTsui Hark crushed the obvious political meaning of his story under the weight of his aesthetic experiments, which did not stop the reign of digital special effects, far from it.
Only here, he is joined by two great companions, who we wonder if they can stop his creations. And indeed, the battle scenes, spread over two major narrative areas, leave this tripartite way apparent. Visions of chaos filmed over the shoulder give way from time to time to some dry tracking shots and other fast aerial shots, launching for the teasing of moviegoers a segment of “who shot what ?” which range from expert level to beginner. But in the long term, the styles devour each other, always in the landing of the general scene. The definition of disappointment.
Under US Air
Only a few moments of courage, attributed to mechanical fanboyism to Tsui Hark, can momentarily make us forget the seriousness of the ideology of the matter, during a silly camera movement or a surreal idea. What emerges is a crazy shot sequence that flies a company of frightened soldiers together with planes and ends in an improbable split-screen, as well as a tank duel straight from wet dreams of the Hong Kong filmmakers it represents. . A small amountgiven that the whole thing takes about 3 hours.
Perhaps the instruction is to save some firepower for the sequel, which has a better reputation in terms of action, but who would have guessed without a body. Although it is difficult to see the scriptwriters surpassing this last act, where the purpose of the project is revealed in all its brutality: the image of the American people prostrate before the alleged battle of poor soldiers reduced to the status of lifeless statues – and no opinion. One of the last boxes is responsible for driving the point home: “The great spirit of war is eternal”. Chilling.
Heroes: The Battle at Lake Changjin is available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from July 27.