The Last Supper

 (China/Hong Kong/Taiwan, 2012)
U.S. Premiere
115 minutes, DCP, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Lu Chuan
Starring: Liu Ye, Daniel Wu, Chang Chen, Qin Lan

Grand, somber and strikingly gray, like some region of Hell that Dante never got around to charting, Lu Chuan’s THE LAST SUPPER rang all the alarm bells of Chinese censors last year for its ambiguous depiction of absolute power that reaches dangerously close to contemporary times: Chairman Mao would definitely not approve, the mighty Beijing Film Bureau decreed.

Now rescued from the claws of censorship, Lu’s lavish historical production follows his much admired Nanjing massacre movie City of Life and Death (2009) and brings fierce critical intelligence and an operatic, almost sepulchral majesty to the ancient story of the Feast at Hong Gate – a turning point in the chaotic interregnum of the Chu-Han Contention (3rd century B.C.) that has since been popularized in Chinese literature and pop culture (becoming in the process another name for a treacherous invitation).

Set between 206 and 195 BC, this full-blooded epic drama is, as the tradition demands, a tale of foul treachery. Told through the whispers of the last man standing, it reveals the complex moral conflicts, the naked displays of dominance and dances of death that reigned and raged over the lives of three comrade-in-arms vying for survival and supremacy: Liu Bang (mainland actor Liu Ye), Xiang Yu (Hong Kong actor Daniel Wu) and Han Xin (Taiwanese actor Chang Chen).
After founding of his own dynasty, Liu Bang’s days as the first Han Emperor are, when the film opens, ravaged by paranoid fears of conspiracy and unrelenting nightmares, the kind that plague a man who cemented his empire with blood and betrayal. Waking to see the severed head of a former ally, memories of rising from a roughly hewn peasant footsoldier to the pinnacle of power flash before his guilty eyes.

The old man remembers his first and decisive encounter with gallant armor-clad Lord Xiang Yu riding by with his formidable warhorse-mounted army. Shortly after this brief encounter, Liu Bang, younger then but already burning with ambition, joined the ranks of the nobleman’s forces in exchange for a group of soldiers to liberate his hometown where his wife, Lü Zhi (Qin Lan, the director’s own wife and muse), was held captive. General Xiang Yu generously gave him 5,000 men, and soon, they fought the tyranny of the Qin ruler side by side. Han Xin, a third man joined the alliance and complicated the uncertain equation. As fate would have it, blood would flow, and not only at the Hong Men banquet.

Directed with the dash of silent-cinema showmanship, Lu Chuan’s infernal creation is a visually breathtaking oratorio of indelible fire-lit images and sumptuous, dark flights of fancy most directors can only dream of, set to stun and demanding to be seen on a BIG screen.

Sunday July 7, 8:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets

Wednesday July 10, 1:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets