A collaboration between renowned British painter David Hockney and filmmaker Philip Haas (The Music of Chance, Angels and Insects), A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China is an hour-long documentary in which Hockney takes the viewer on a guided tour of a late 17th-century Chinese scroll. The 72-foot long scroll, created by artist Wang Hui and a team of seven assistants, uses a journey taken by the Chinese Emperor down the Grand Canal to present a panoramic view of Chinese life, depicting everything from elaborate government ceremonies to everyday matters like shopping and laundry. Hockney shows us representative highlights from the work, comparing it to an Italian painting by the artist Canaletto and a later Chinese scroll depicting the same event in a more European style. These contrasts become a springboard for wide-ranging observations on art history, with Hockney placing a particular emphasis on the development of different notions of perspective. As he explores the three works, Hockney praises the multiple viewpoints and intimate details of the Wang Hui scroll over the more rigid style of the other works and investigates the complex relationship between aesthetics, history, and spirituality.
~ Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide