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The 2010 film that portrays the life of the legendary historical figure

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Feels More Like an Imprint Than a Biopic on The Legacy of the Legendary Historical Figure

  • Mar 11, 2010

The last time a movie was made about the story of Confucius was in 1940 in a silent film. This 2010 film, that has Chow Yun Fat in the lead role as “Confucius” is a reason to celebrate. The film is directed by Hu Mei and while the movie is flawed with several missed opportunities, but nonetheless, the film has great production values and a great cast (even has the beauteous Zhou Xun with an appearance that may be brief but made a lot of impact) and the words of wisdom by the legendary historic figure are occasionally quoted to leave an impression on the uninitiated. Talk about national pride and “Confucius” has all the elements to satisfy.
Back during the time when the three royal families ruled the land with little chances of unity, clan leader Chi Shun (Chen Jianbin) values the friendship and beliefs of Kong Qiu (Confucius’ real name) as long as it suits his purposes. Kong has been a worthy ally as he had accomplished several feats without bloodshed but through his brilliant maneuvering of politics and military tactics. But when politics prove to be too testing for his values of benevolence and morality, he is forced into self-exile. He eventually ends up leaving his family and home with nothing but his faithful disciples to lend him support. 

The film portrays two key elements in the life of Kong Qiu (Chow Yun Fat); his life as a minister in the political arena in his homeland and his 14-year travels when he traveled all over China with his disciples to offer education to the masses. The film brings his experiences as a man of honor and principle who challenges the corruption that runs deep in the government, and anyone who does so would be asked to leave. After that, we see his trek all over the wilderness with his disciples, that he experiences some truly testing years. I am not sure, I liked the parts where we see his problems, their search for food and the way he is revered by his followers; but there was just something missing.
The first half of the film is full of dialogue as we are presented the political situation during this period. I know there is just so much history to cover in a 2-hour film, and it shows that some parts of the direction felt rather episodic. I did enjoy the fact that we get to know his disciples and those who held historical significance (Li commanding the army of Zilu) as well as those who meet a less than pleasant fate as Hui Yan (played by Quan Ren). This is a supposed biopic that exudes national pride so the drama in the film is pretty much a given practice. There are some brief scenes of spectacle as we become privy to some of the bloodiest battles in Chinese history. The scenes looked real good, I was impressed with the film’s set designs and costumes; they looked quite suited for the period it depicts. The cinematography was laid out by Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and the costumes prove to be two of the film’s main strengths. 

I guess the missing part of the movie is the fact that I wanted to get to know Confucius as a man as well as the legendary historical figure. The details of his life felt like a mere imprint. I guess while I liked the idea of Confucius beginning as a righteous man and ending as a righteous man, I wanted to feel his character more from the ‘human’ point of view. An example would be when the scene that his human frailties could’ve been brought to exposition as he met with the dangerously seductive Nan Zi (Zhou Xun, Painted Skin) as we see that he is obviously taken by her beauty but denies his own personal delight. This would be an exercise that his intelligence comes at a price, and the tension was seen. I guess I wanted to see more of Confucius more human side; the film portrays him as a man of significant iconic status, but I never got to see Confucius as a real man. 

I guess I shouldn’t really complain even if the direction fails on several bits of compelling characterization since the direction opts to rely on Fat’s star power, the great production values and the cultural importance. The film does feel very pleased with itself and for the western audience who’d like to have a little knowledge of Confucius’ life, then the movie does have its strong points. Chow Yun Fat may be dubbed in the film, but the actor is one helluva performer, as he manages to give a lot of emotion to his role despite the weaknesses of the script. The film can be commended as it does give a ‘feel pride’ type of emotion and proves significant since Confucius’ teachings came under scrutiny during the cultural revolution.
I guess “Confucius” is one of those Hong Kong films geared for a more international audience who want an introduction to the life of the historical figure named as the ‘father of education‘. It feels a little empty for those with the knowledge of Eastern history and the film doesn’t capitalize on the potential applications of his teachings in today’s current times. The film sidesteps any parallels in today’s political arena, applies his quotes as mere dramatic devices and simply enforces the idea of Confucius that most people already know anyway. The film fails to inspire and never presents the more compelling side of the life and the legacy of Confucius; the worldwide movie-going public needed a more detailed education about the man. It should have been a more dynamic film, a more awesome movie; and while “Confucius” is a upright presentation, it never hits a homerun.
Timid Recommendation [3 Out of 5 Stars]

HYPE LEVEL: Very High in Asia and Europe as it marks Chow Yun Fat's return to Chinese epics while portraying a significant historical figure. 

Feels More Like an IMPRINT Than a Biopic on The Legacy of the Legendary Historical Figure Feels More Like an IMPRINT Than a Biopic on The Legacy of the Legendary Historical Figure Feels More Like an IMPRINT Than a Biopic on The Legacy of the Legendary Historical Figure Feels More Like an IMPRINT Than a Biopic on The Legacy of the Legendary Historical Figure

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April 15, 2010
I am interested in seeing this one, great review once again WP.
March 16, 2010
Very few films about great men (especially if they revered) let you get to know them as human beings. And if they do there's usually hell to pay. Now I know that Confucious was a religious icon so this isn't quite the same thing, but remember what happened when Scorsese's flick THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST came out?
March 17, 2010
That's an excellent point. I guess I wanted more information about Confucius' life as man, as a husband and how he dealt with things as a mayor of a province. The movie began with him already a mayor and it lost several details for me. Oh, yes, I remember all of the backfire when Scorsese's movie came out.
March 18, 2010
That's what I was hoping for when Attenborough made his movie on Gandhi--and we get a movie that doesn't even mention his children in passing. I can't help but think that the fact that he had a son who converted to Islam would have been a very interesting sidestory. I wouldn't have minded sitting there another half hour or 45 minutes.
March 11, 2010
Sweet. I was wondering where Chow had been the past few years. I thought maybe he was going to retire or something. Nice review!
March 15, 2010
I'm just happy he made this after DRAGONBALL. He actually turned down WARLORDS (with Jet Li) to make that abysmal movie.
March 15, 2010
Did he at least fire his agent?
March 15, 2010
I do hope so. Hey, you see the trailer for the new WALLSTREET with Shia again?
March 15, 2010
Shia LaBeouf in a remake of the classic anti-greed Michael Douglas film? Well, that's a wickedly ironic notion. Oh, crap, Ragnorak approaches!
March 16, 2010
Someone is daring to remake an Oliver Stone film?!?!
March 16, 2010
Sounds like that's what he's saying. I don't really see the point, since Stone is such an iconoclastic director with such unqiue vision. To remake any of his films just seems unnecessary. Even the films that weren't that good.
March 16, 2010
YUP. I think it is set up as sort of a kind of a sequel since it has Douglas in the movie.
March 16, 2010
How ironic, a sequel to a film that was anti-greed that's made for purely commercial reasons.
March 11, 2010
Saw it some weeks ago on DVD but frankly, I wasn't concentrating on it and didn't learn a thing from it (I know, my fault :-)). May be I need to replay the disc although I'm not very motivated to. It was a big production and China actually took Avatar off the theaters to screen this one! Some kind of promotion which the population is encouraged to watch! Avatar vs Confucius? LOL...
March 11, 2010
Oh, I don't think anyone did get to see Confucius as a real man neither. So, don't be sad ;-p
March 15, 2010
Really? That's pretty amaziing. Oh, did you know that the Korean movie HAEUNDAE (I reviewed it here) actually out-grossed AVATAR in the box-office. I saw your 2 star rating, I can actually see that since the film's pacing is quite its own.
March 16, 2010
May be I've got weird taste, LOL... No, I don't enjoy movies that dwell in history, not big on history & politics, I'm afraid. Sci-fi? that's something else :-)
March 16, 2010
Just thought to clarify, I only see movies as entertainment, nothing more. Most of the time, it's just merely to pass time. And this one passes it too darn slow ;-)
March 17, 2010
.... :-D
More Confucius reviews
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Confucius Says
   Usually, I love films that depict the peoples, places, and events from history.  Granted, I prefer that films “do it right,” don’t exaggerate the importance of people and events because, when they do, I think those pictures rob the audience of experiencing, first-hand, those moments of discovery … let’s call them even ‘moments of appreciation’ … for what a person, place, or event meant to all of history.  When you rob the viewer …
Quick Tip by . March 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Not my kind of movie but neither am I a fan of Confucius or Chow Yun Fat! You need to concentrate to watch this. Too much dialogs!
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William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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