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THE BANQUET aka YE YAN aka
LEGEND OF THE BLACK SCORPION (US DVD)
USA: Dragon Dynasty
UK: Metrodome Distribution
Cast: Ziyi Zhang, Ge You, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Huang Xiaoming, Ma Jingwu, Zhou Zhonghe, Qiusheng Zeng, Xiyan Xu, Yanbin Liu
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Language: Mandarin (English subtitles)
USA: 126 mins
UK: 131 mins
USA Rated: NR
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong violence
USA DVD Release Date: 26 February 2008
UK Release Date: 11 April 2008 (Limited Release - London, West End)
Loosely inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet, THE BANQUET is set in ancient China during the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960 AD), when dynasties succeed each other rapidly in the north and a dozen of independent states vie with one another in the south. Meanwhile, the neighboring Khitan Empire is on the prowl in Manchuria, ready to conquer China when the moment arises.
Against this background of internal turmoil and external threat lives a legendary queen. As beautiful as she is young, and as limber as she is smart, Empress Wan (Ziyi Zhang) can launch a thousand ships with her charm and fight a hundred soldiers with her sword. Unfulfilled in her private life, she secretly desires her stepson Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu), an introverted and melancholic young man four months her senior, who shies away from the palace to indulge in the ancient art of music and dance.
When the Emperor suddenly dies, his virile younger brother Li (Ge You) takes over the throne. Wan shocks everyone by agreeing to marry Li, convinced that this is the only way to protect Wu Luan while sealing her own position in the court. But Li is no fool, however infatuated he might be with his sister-in-law, he only pretends to buy into her scheme to consummate his lust. Oblivious to Wan, he has dispatched his guards to kill his nephew.
Already devastated by his father's death and stunned by his stepmother's impending wedding with his uncle, Wu Luan is horrified when he realises his own life is threatened. After thwarting the assassination attempt he is determined toreturn to the palace and exact revenge on his uncle, whom he believes has murdered his father.
Returned to the palace, Wu Luan finds himself inextricably trapped in a double love triangle: on the one hand Wan, on the other Qing Nu (Zhou Xun), the daughter of the conniving Grand Marshall. Qing Nu is head over heels in love with Wu Luan and she is ready to sacrifice her life for him.
When Emperor Li proclaims that a big banquet will be held for his ministers, Wu Luan realizes it is the time to strike. Meanwhile, Empress Wan and the Grand Marshall also have their own plans to hatch...