THE BIG PICTURE: Passionate Portraits of Vivid Kung Fu Flighting; the House of Flying Daggers (Cert 15) Stars Ziyi Zhang, Li Feng, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau and Dandan Song; Director Zhang Yimou. 119 Mins Rating . .

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Byline: Philip Key

REMEMBER the days when a film fight consisted of two chaps slugging it out with fists? Ah, happy days of innocence. Today it's all slow motion, people hanging in the air, incredible fighting techniques and a lot of film magic.

The House of Flying Daggers takes all of this to a new height where it really is a separate art - part ballet, part film.

The master of it is director Zhang Yimou, the producer of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and director of the even more amazing Hero.

If anything, Flying Daggers takes everything one step further.

Here is a blind dancer (Ziyi Zhang) with sleeves that extend with deadly blades on the end, armies fighting in a bamboo forest, a chap who fires arrows faster than a six-gun fires bullets and so on.

Set in some glorious countryside and photographed in shimmering colours, the film - plot apart - remains a gorgeous treat for the eyes.

The story is set in 859 AD when the Chinese Tang Dynasty faced various rebel groups, among them The House of Flying Daggers.

Their Robin Hood gimmick is to steal from the rich to give to the poor.

Two Tang captains (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) are given the task of capturing the rebel leader and suspect that the blind dancer is his daughter.

So while one arrests her the other pretends to rescue her, hoping she will take him to the leader in question.

As in many a film before, the enemies start falling in love.

This is a peg on which to hang many startling action sequences, mostly choreographed by Tony Ching Siu Tung.

They do look amazing and are quite beautiful to behold. …