Chinese director John Woo was awarded the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. His martial arts epic, Reign of Assassins, screened to coincide with the honour warmed Venetian hearts.
A beaming Woo told the media that he saw himself as a bridge between China and Hollywood. “I want to make movies that will incorporate the good things from the West and the East.
The Reign of Assassins, which was shot in China and set during the famous Ming Dynasty, stars Michelle Yeoh. She plays an assassin falling in love with the son of a man killed by her gang.This is the first that a Chinese film has a real female hero, and, indeed, this is the first time that Woo has a woman as a protagonist. "Some people are of the view that martial arts are all about men. But this opinion is rapidly changing in China…Young women want to see women martial arts heroes", Woo said.
It is said that the Venice jury president, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, starring Uma Thurman as a female fighter, had inspired Woo to create his own woman warrior. There is, however, a difference between the two. The Kill Bill heroine is American, very strong and powerful. But Yeoh’s Assassin is Chinese, very Eastern, very emotional. She is willing to shed tears and suffer – all for love.
Though Woo is familiar with Hollywood and the West, having worked there, he feels that the people there are still to understand China’s culture and spirit. And in a final take, Woo said that he was old fashioned who believed in two-dimensional cinema. The 3D stuff is more like a computer game. Yes, of course, mechanical, cold and soulles, I would add.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering the Venice Film Festival for a decade)