Friday, 27 April 2012

WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE - Review by Greg Klymkiw - Stirring war epic of Japan's colonization of Taiwan and the eventual uprising of the Aboriginal mountain dwellers.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale dir. Te-Sheng Wei, ***
Starring: Masanobu Andô, Jun'ichi Haruta, Sabu Kawahara

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The history of colonialism during the first millennium is a shameful one, though more often than not, the stories that we've seen on film are of Western European exploitation of aboriginal nations (Little Big Man, Dances With Wolves, The New World) and, to a lesser extent, tales of Israel's repression of cultures in the Middle East (pick any picture by the great Elia Suleiman - in particular, The Time That Remains) and England's rule over countries in the UK (Braveheart, Rob Roy, The Wind That Shakes the Barley). There is, however, a "rich" tradition of colonialism in Asia and Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale is a stirring epic of Japan's ruthless rule over Taiwan.

No doubt a simplification of the events in the early 20th Century that saw Taiwan's rainbow warriors reduced to "civilized" slaves of the Japanese ruling class, this doesn't detract from the picture's enormous entertainment value and food for thought. Beginning with a jaw-droppingly thrilling pig hunt in the mountains and a subsequent tussle twixt warring tribes, the movie provides a glimpse of life in the Taiwanese jungles before the Japanese invasion. When the Japanese invade, we're privy to their wholesale savage slaughter of tribe members to instil fear in them in order to place the colonial yoke upon them. We jump 25 years later and the Japanese crow about how they have brought civilization to the "savages" and keep the older ones playing "fetch" for them, whilst a younger generation is turned into subservient "Japanese". The latter group, in spite of the suppression of their culture and their willingness to bend to the will of Nippon, are stilled viewed as "savages".

Eventually, the rainbow warriors have had enough. Their leader has been quietly planning a revolt. When the time comes to strike back and commit the necessary "blood sacrifice" to their Gods (thus ensuring entrance and enshrinement in the heavenly rainbow valley) we're offered a good one hour of screen time devoted to magnificent carnage as 300 brave "savages" decimate the Japanese forces. With a nice combination of digital gore and terrific fight choreography, we're served up a tasty platter that rivals Zack Snyder's 300.

At two and one half hours, the film is relatively free of the usual longueurs in such epics. The action sequences are mostly directed with aplomb. It occasionally suffers from the newly fashionable Cinematic Attention Deficit Disorder (CADD) with too many closeups and fast cutting, but for the most part we get a good array of terrific (and often strange) compositions and the kind of sword hacking delights that hang back and aren't afflicted by too many annoying edits.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale is first-rate big screen Asian action epic antics and casts light upon a little known (to the West) historical example of brutal colonization.

"Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale" is currently in theatrical release in Canada via VVS Films and is especially spectacular on a big screen, so try to see it there first. It is also available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Amazon (US and UK) - Links Above