Made outside of China's censorship system, these films were lauded as dreamy and raw; his vision focused, almost unwittingly, on the country's tumultuous past and the plight of individual folk, often seen through the eyes of a strong female lead.
Reading subtitles is a lot like riding a bicycle. Practice not only makes perfect, soon enough it's second nature so you don't even notice you're doing it. This particularly holds true when you're watching something great.
It seems like a weirdly cross-cultural idea: Chinese master Zhang Yimou does a remake of the Coen brothers' debut film, Blood Simple. If the film lacks the dryly mordant Coen wit, it offers other pleasures -- but also some problems.
We are left with a picture of a China that is full of contradictions and conflicting trends, of liberalizing desire to become an open society mixed with a strong strain of conservative attachment, of kitsch and real splendor existing side-by-side.
Embellishing the face of China, and thereby enhancing the prestige of its rulers, required something better than reality, a painstakingly idealized hyper-real, and if that required trickery or deception, so be it.
The conscious decision to create a narrative that rewrites both Chinese history and reality is alarming -- but the fact that the NBC commentators unquestioningly went along with it is downright appalling.