ONE YEAR I HAD TO TAKE two history classes back to back, one was US and the other was European. The instructor for the US history class was an older man who, you will not believe, looked like Benjamin Franklin, but with shorter hair. He was balding on top with a ring of hair around the sides. When he wore glasses, they were small frameless lens that kept sliding down to the tip of his nose. When I first met him, I thought of Benjamin Franklin immediately; all he needed was a kite with a key tied to its tail. For some reason I equated his appearance with being a good teacher. From the class syllabus, I knew we had a lot of ground to cover regarding US history. The first class is usually devoted more to introductions and expectations; his was no exception. He went over what was expected of us, the testing he would be administering and his grading system. Nothing he said was out of the norm; though and this is just me, I thought his delivery was a bit dry. The 2ndclass I had with him laid the groundwork for what was going to be a grueling year; he was boring. Most of our time was taken up by him reading to us from a book. I could have done that on my own. There were no historical insights offered by him, very little debate initiated; the time always dragged slowly with this professor. THE FIRST DAY WALKING INTO MY European history class, the instructor who was standing near the door, bellowed, “Who might you be and where did your family originate from?” I was startled; but did not show it, telling him my name and where my ancestors came from. After attending my US history class, then walking into this one; wow, there was a stark difference right from the start for me. This instructor turned out to be a character. There were times he came into the classroom dressed up in clothing that was fashionable for the period we were studying. He regaled us with colorful, historical stories that mirrored what we were presently learning. I looked forward to coming to this class for the simple reason it was informative in a fun way. Compared to my other history class, you could not have asked for two totally opposite ways of teaching a class. I could see with my classmates’ interactions with the instructors that this European history instructor was teaching us to think and learn, not just memorize what was being told to us. This was such a preferable way of learning; almost as good for me as this historical, action adventure film. WITH ANCIENT CHINA BROKEN UP INTO several different kingdoms, a lone man arrives to give the king of the Qin empire the weapons from his dead assassins. It would take a special man to come anywhere near the king in his palace. With Jet Li (The Warlords, Fearless) as nameless, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Internal Affairs, The Grandmaster) as Broken Sword, Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love, Days of Being Wild) as Flying Snow, Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Flying Daggers) as Moon and Daoming Chen (My 1919, Internal Affairs III) as the King; this film festival winning and Oscar nominated movie was gorgeous. One should not think of this picture as a typical “kung fu” or “marital arts” film; the fight sequences were so creative and visually stimulating that they looked like a choreographed ballet. The sheer size of the sets and cast was astounding; and yet, at the heart of the story there was a strong element of love. I believe the script was created from an element of historical truth; but I do not know by how much. Regardless, if the intention of the producers was to teach the viewers some history while entertaining them, then sign me up for next semester’s class.
3 ½ stars