THE EIGHT HUNDRED (2020) review

By far the highest-profile of the Chinese films set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (which included Li Shaohong’s Liberation and Oxide Pang’s Towards the River Glorious, both flops), Guan Hu’s The Eight Hundred was initially set to open the 2019 Shanghai Film Festival, followed by a domestic theatrical release in early July 2019. Both were abruptly cancelled, officially for “technical reasons” – the real reason allegedly having more to do with the positive portrayal of the Nationalist army, which in PRC propaganda are normally to be portrayed as a band of traitors to their homeland. It’s not clear what changes were brought to the film to make it palatable to the Communist overlords, but when it finally got a domestic release more than a year later, it heralded the promising recovery of its industry in the Covid-19 aftermath, with a thunderous 450 million dollars (and counting) at the Chinese box-office, not far at all from the lofty expectations surrounding its original 2019 release.

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