House of Flying Daggers is a gorgeous movie that well deserves its Oscar nomination for best cinematography. The primary actors are gorgeous ... many of the showcase scenes (mostly fighting, but also dancing and even kissing) are gorgeous ... nature itself is gorgeous, as if it only existed to serve the needs of the film's creators. This movie elicits as many jaw-dropping "wow that's gorgeous" moments as any film in recent years.
It's not enough, though. There's something amiss when gorgeous snow starts falling on a gorgeous landscape, and you know the only reason for the snow is because it's gorgeous. It's not necessary for the plot ... it's not necessary for anything other than how pretty it looks. When Zhang Ziyi starts bleeding out of her mouth, she's gorgeous, the blood is gorgeous, it's all gorgeous.
At times the movie seems to be in the Powerful Women genre so common in Hong Kong films ... Zhang Ziyi has some delightful action scenes. But the movie is overrun by sentimental weepiness, which requires that her character must come to a sad end. The film seems to be setting up a climactic, colossal battle between the two main forces, but that angle oddly drops out of sight in favor of a neanderthal match of the two main male characters. It's not nearly as satisfying, and it's rather inexplicable (although Robin claims it's just that the colossal battle doesn't matter because all that is important is the central love triangle).
House of Flying Daggers is the Elvira Madigan of its day. Whether that's a compliment or a pan is up to your subjective judgment.