The Emperor's Shadow | Chicago Reader

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Two men manage to be lifelong friends as well as mortal enemies in this mythical story about the role of music in the formation of the first Chinese empire. Ying Zheng, a king who intends to become emperor, conquers the neighboring kingdom where as an infant he was wet-nursed by the mother of Gao Jianli. Gao, now a virtuoso string player, is taken prisoner, but Ying, moved by his music, insists he be installed as court composer. Gao goes on a hunger strike, hoping to persuade Ying to question whether building an empire is worth all the bloodshed. This epic's romantic and political melodrama—Ying's daughter falls in love with Gao but must submit to a marriage that will serve her father's military strategy—is enriched by the powerful characterizations, especially that of Ying, a marvelously ambivalent yet effective ruler. Zhou Xiaowen directed a screenplay by Lu Wei; with Jiang Wen, Ge You, and Xu Qing.

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