Enchanting images and deadly intrigues at the emperor's palace are presented to us by Feng Xiaogang in "The Banquet", one of China's expensive prestigious projects from last year. But many viewers disliked a seeming lack of content and found the priorities not to be story and characters, but effects. A judgment that is easy to be passed recently, as soon as set design, costume design, camera work and editing grant us a movie of the highest level on the silver screen. And you may often be lead to feel wrongfully reassured, when the actors not only follow the grandeur of the images but also develop their roles through small gestures and subtle dialogues. Adding to their harsh judgment is for many surely also the fact, that "The Banquet" begins with a perfectly choreographed action sequence by Yuen Woo-ping, which may leave many viewers lusting for more, but the movie never feels the need to insert anything like it into the story again.
Whoever manages to free himself from those prejudices and wrong expectations will see one of the best movies of the last year.
While it was reported a few months ago that two scenes with the empress - one of her playing polo, the other one of her training with her sword - had been cut from the original version, because the director deemed them unnecessary, both the Chinese as well as the Hong Kong DVD are complete in this aspect. But some erotic and violent scenes had to be cut for the Chinese version.
Oddly enough, the massacre at the beginning is uncut and only some splashes of blood had to go. Even the assassins' suicides, committed by stabbing themselves, can be seen. The blood dripping on the horses hooves, however, can't.
While the new emperor tries to show his loyalty to the empress Wan in bed, a take where he strokes her breast is missing.
Assault on the prince
After the sword impaled the masked man it is missing how it is pulled out again and how blood spurts against the scroll.
At this point, the Chinese version lacks a take in which one guard is pushed through a gate. This scene appears in the HK version when the masked man drops dead to the ground.
The slain manís blood spouts against a lampion.
Again some blood splats on the ground.
After the man, who masqueraded himself as prince, impaled another man with his sword, the moment in which plenty of blood spouts out of the wound is missing.
After this prince double got decapitated on the slide, the head drops down.
The cut-off head gets down in the river and passes the prince with a long trail of blood.
Later, emperor Li gives empress Wan a massage. A shot of her half-naked back has been cut.
Again the massage lacks a shot.
The empress gets into the bathtub a bit longer.
After the attackers get back on the theater they recognize they failed and commit suicide. The Chinese version still shows how they knife themselves, but the scene in which bloods runs down a horse has been cut.
The ministerís death
When the minister is slain in public, there are some cuts. At the beginning he is beaten up.
The minister spits out blood.
The minister gets his arms and legs broken.
More beating up.
The minister again spits out blood.