Curse Of The Golden Flower


Reviewed by: Chris

Curse Of The Golden Flower

"Flowers! How lovely! You shouldn't have - really! I mean ten thousand chrysanthemums, how will I water them? Just give me a CGI next year, dear."

Of course, it being 928 A.D. Tang Dynasty China, the script doesn't go quite like that. An important date in the calendar requires a carpet of chrysanthemums at the Emperor's palace. While outwardly nice to his Empress wife, the Emperor is secretly poisoning her. Their royal family includes a half-son who has been having an affair with the Empress but who really wants to have sex with the doctor's daughter. Emperor and Empress pit their wits, sons and individual armies to expunge such dishonourable blemishes from the royal household. Naturally, the flowers get trampled on, but the red of blood makes a nice contrast with the golden colour and there are always more where they came from.

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Curse of the Golden Flower is large scale Chinese cinema with hundreds of servants, soldiers, maids in waiting and every type of visual excess imaginable. The story lacks substance but makes up for it with an impressively psychedelic palace (using columns of coloured glass), imaginatively choreographed battles (which is getting harder with every successive Chinese historical epic), glittering costumes, and bosoms that constantly threaten to brim over. If you've paid money to see it, the least you feel you can do is be dutifully impressed.

As an elaborate quasi-historical pageant, Curse of the Golden flower is imposing. It lacks the originality of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or the intensity and plot inventiveness of much of Yimou Zhang's earlier work, such as Hero. It feels like the Hong Kong equivalent of paying to see Tom Cruise in an all-action Hollywood blockbuster, replete with explosions and light hints of sexuality. We have breath-taking sets and wire-work action - each scene looks worthy of a poster you could frame and put on the wall - and the glancing references to incest, plus a hefty dose of blood and guts Asian-style, reassure us that this is a movie for Western adult audiences. The lush colours from the artwork department are almost overpowering. Cinematography displays a nice contrast between bright opulence in the palace and dark chaos outside. Top Chinese actors work overtime to squeeze emotion out of what could be a one-page script, and with a budget in excess of $40 million - which goes a long way in China - it is hard to argue that it doesn't give value-for-money on your Saturday night out. But, compared to this director's earlier masterpieces, Curse of the Golden Flower is superficially awesome while, at least to this reviewer, seeming a little unsatisfyingly hollow.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2007
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Love and politics lead the way to destruction in the Chinese imperial court.
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Read more Curse Of The Golden Flower reviews:

Max Crawford ****1/2

Director: Zhang Yimou

Writer: Zhang Yimou, based on the play by Yu Cao

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Li Gong, Jay Chou, Ye Liu, Dahong Ni

Year: 2006

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong/China

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