"Well," I said, "That is kind of true...but you have to understand the culture and the style of the films. Here, this will help. You know how, in a musical, where people randomly break out in song and exquisitely choreographed dance numbers? And sometimes it has nothing to do with the story? Well, this is the Chinese version of that."
"I can see that," he said. "But the plots are awful thin."
"Right," I said. "Just like a musical."
And it's accurate, especially in this latest from Yimou Zhang (who also gave us the lovely Hero). It's lusciously filmed, romantic, tragic and...there's a lot of random fu. It's your basic lover's triangle with a bit of West Side Story. We have a beautiful and strong heroine and two handsome leading men (especially fascinating is Kaneshiro Takeshi, part Taiwanese and part Japanese. I'd not seen him before and I think I need to see more). It's the visual equivalent of Teramisu. Like most Wuxia (martial arts) films with romance, the end isn't a happy one. Think Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet. But it is a beautiful one.