There's a lot going on in the world of Zhang Yimou these days. Only last week, it was announced that he'll be directing his first U.S. feature with Universal -- a rare instance of a Chinese director getting to steer an English-language film with an American studio. The project is an adaptation of Robert Ludlum's bestselling thriller, "The Parsifal Mosaic" -- not exactly the first match of director and material that comes to mind, but Zhang has already proven his deftness as a genre stylist, so we'll see. (Just as long as he fares better than his compatriot Chen Kaige did in "Killing Me Softly.")

For now, however, Zhang is on more familiar turf, having recently completed a Chinese film, "Coming Home." (No, it has nothing to do with the 1978 Jon Voight-Jane Fonda drama.) Currently in post-production, it's a politicized romance about a Chinese dissident from the 1920s to the 1990s. Chen Daoming plays the dissident; regular Zhang collaborator Gong Li is also on board.

Finally, the film has found familiar support on the distribution front: Sony Pictures Classics. It's the 12th time they've worked together, with SPC having previously distributed such Zhang films as "House of Flying Daggers" and "Shanghai Triad" to, most recently, a Coen Brothers remake "A Girl, a Gun and a Noodle Shop" three years ago. If they passed on 2012's turgid, Christian Bale-led "The Flowers of War," meanwhile, it'd be hard to blame them.

Hopefully "Coming Home," then, is a return to form for Zhang, who has gone a bit off the boil in recent years -- his work at the Beijing Olympics notwithstanding, the last of his films to land completely right was "Flying Daggers" a full decade ago. However it turns out, it's a reasonable bet that the film will be China's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry this year: seven of his films have been submitted by China, and two of them ("Ju Dou" and "Hero") wound up nominated. (He also scored a nod for Hong Kong with "Raise the Red Lantern.")

Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.