Thursday, May 29, 2008

Movie Mini Review: The Curse of the Golden Flower

Title: The Curse of the Golden Flower (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia)

Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye, Chen Jin

Plot summary:
Set in feudal China’s Tang Dynasty, Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat) returns home to the Imperial Palace to celebrate the Chrysanthemum Festival with his family. The Emperor has summoned his second son, Prince Jai, home from the frontier, and he has ulterior motives. But while the emperor has been away on military campaigns, his wife, Empress Pheonix (Gong Li) has been making clandestine plans of her own. Behind the silk veneer of the Forbidden Palace, all is not as it seems and tragedy awaits.

My thoughts:
I was home sick a couple of weeks ago and, while in a drug-induced stupor, the only activity I could effectively manage was channel surfing.

Luckily, I hit one of the action movie channels at the upper end of the dial while The Curse of the Yellow Flower was just beginning.

I watched the subtitled version, which I always recommend because overdubbing ends up looking awkward and cheesy. And even though I don’t understand the spoken language of the film, I think overdubbing tends to strip out the emotional inflection of the actors and waters down the director’s original vision.

And the director had a stunning vision for this film. Director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) brings us his stylized view of 10th-century China with sweeping vistas and vibrant colors. The camera work and musical score are really amazing, creating an epic film in the best sense of the word.

In the early scenes, I was expecting a martial arts tour de force, but Yimou soon exceeded my expectations. This isn’t just another wire-fighting kun-fu movie, although there is plenty of that (not to mention cleavage) and fans of that style won’t be disappointed.

But it is also a provocative story about the excesses and pitfalls of absolute power, the complexity and fragility of family relationships and the destructive force of greed.

The Curse of the Golden Flower has been criticized as a soap opera set in feudal China, a kind of dynastic Dynasty. And the film can be a bit over the top, especially in the final act. But in my opinion it’s a good kind of over the top, like a tragic Italian opera, and completely in context.

My final rating: Set Your DVR.

Favorite quote:
"What I do not give, you must never take by force."

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  1. Holy boobies, batman! Wow.

  2. Reading about Chow Yun Fat reminds me of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which my wife referred to as "Crotchless Tiger."

    Which of course was a completely different movie.



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