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Cause - The Birth Of Hero
featuring: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Zhang Zi-yi, and Maggie Cheung

director: Gan Lu

160 minutes (E) 2004
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Revelation DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
With the rise of the DVD extra, I suppose this had to happen eventually - an entire feature-length 'making of' documentary sold separately to the film. Cause follows the making of historical martial arts movie Hero from the early stages of planning to the conclusion of filming, covering production meetings, action stunts, and the antics of the cast and crew on set and off, in great detail. Everything from early morning starts to birthday parties and New Year's celebrations has been meticulously recorded. It even has extras (how post-modern) - a picture gallery, and stills from a Chinese promotional booklet.

I suppose what this epic documentary - clocking in close to twice the length of the film itself - really proves is that you can have too much of a good thing. The early stages of development, as the script is discussed and the cast recruited, are fascinating, not least since these are stages rarely recorded in behind-the-scenes documentaries. But once they settle into the process of actually shooting the film, the footage becomes repetitive: a good two hours of clips of the actors discussing their attitudes to their job, preparing for shots, or sitting around talking between takes. The dodgy subtitling, which suffers from occasional incomprehensibility and frequent typos, doesn't help.

Director Zhang Yimou is obviously a forceful personality who demands, and gets, exactly what he wants from his team, and conflict, or even discussion, is absent from the footage. This is essentially fly-on-the-wall documentary making, and has that form's strengths and weaknesses - it's very real, but like real life, can be less exciting than you'd hoped. However much they loved Hero, it's hard to imagine that anyone will want to buy this. As a rental, though, it's an agreeable way for martial arts fans or film buffs to pass a few hours - and it's certainly more interesting than Big Brother!
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