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Music from the Films of Zhang Yimou
by Christopher Coleman

One of the famed "fifth-generation" directors of China's growing film history, director Zhang Yimou has been delighting audiences for over twenty years.   His first major film as director came in 1987 with RED SORGHUM (scored by Jiping Zhao) garnered numerous awards and nominations and was prominently featured in the International film festival circuit.  This would be his first of seven collaborations with famed Chinese actress Gong Li.  Zhang Yimou established, what has become, his trademark use of stylized color photography as a means of storytelling with RAISE THE RED LATERN in 1991 (scored by Jiping Zhao and Naoki Tachikawa). 

In more recent years, while still producing smaller-budgeted and more intimate films like RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES (scored by Wenjin Guo), Yimou has become world renown for his historical, wuxia, dramas.  HERO (2002) featured a stellar cast of Chinese actors such as:  Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi and also TAN DUN's epic score.  Following HERO, Zhang Yimou collaborated with SHIGERU UMEBAYASHI for his next two period films:  HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Both of which were visually stunning films with multi-layered scores.  Along with director CHEN KAIGE, ZHANG YIMOU has become one of China's most well-known and influential movie makers.  Yimou is set to be the co-director of the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympiad in Beijing, China.  A five-year process was begun in 2003 to select the official song and score for the Olympics and paralympic events.  At the beginning of 2007, hundreds of scores and thousands of songs had already been submitted.  In the end, it would not be at all surprising to see one of Yimou's former collaborators as the eventual winner. 

The creative storytelling of Zhang Yimou continues to afford composers like Jiping Zhao, Tan Dun and Shigeru Umebayashi the room to create unique and memorable film music.


The Reviews  - Select Soundtracks from the films of Director Zhang Yimou

Hero (Soundtrack) by Tan Dun

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Released by Sony Classical Records (2004)
Rating 8/10

In making his move into this new genre, Yimou selected composer TAN DUN who had burst onto the film music scene with this Oscar winning work for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Ang Lee's wire-flying tale was not Dun's first film score, however. He had been producing scores since the mid 1990s which include films such as IN THE NAME OF THE EMPEROR and FALLEN. Tan Dun's work spans much further than film music as he has written a number of award winning symphonies and operas. But back within film-music genre, following up his acclaimed effort for CROUCHING TIGER could have proven to be a difficult task.

Read the full review of Hero

House of Flying Daggers (Soundtrack) by Shigeru Umebayashi

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House of Flying Daggers
Released by Sony Classical Records (2004)
Rating 8/10

Shigeru Umebayashi's score sits in stark contrast to Tan Dun's bold music for HERO. Here, Umebayashi builds the score upon an exotic cast of instruments of both eastern and western origin, but those which catch the most spotlight are of the east. There are three musical elements that HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, the first half of the score in particular, appears to be built upon: the shakuhachi (Japanese flute), percussion, erhu (chinese violin).

Read the full review of House of Flying Daggers

Curse of the Golden Flower (Soundtrack) by Shigeru Umebayashi

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Curse of the Golden Flower
Released by Lakeshore Records (2007)
Rating 7/10

For CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, composer Shigeru Umebayashi follows in Tan Dun's footsteps from the film HERO.  One has to wonder if Zhang Yimou first sought out Tan Dun for this project only to have missed out due to Dun's commitment to score director Xiaogang Feng's THE BANQUET.  Umebayashi's work here contains similar foreboding percussion and choral work as HERO did; however, it would be going too far to call his work any sort of "rip off." Umebayashi infuses enough of his own sound to keep this score freshly entertaining

Read the full review of Curse of the Golden Flower

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