Curse Of The Golden Flower

2006, Movie, R, 118 mins


Viewers coming to Zhang Yimou's stunning family tragedy by way of such films as RED SORGHUM (1987) and RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991) are in for a shock: It's an operatic historical drama with a thick overlay of intrigue, incest and voluptuous violence, a la Shakespeare's much-reviled "Titus Andronicus." Fans of HERO (2002) and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004) will also be disappointed by the relative dearth of balletic martial-arts sequences. But on its own merits, it's a lavish entertainment that revels in lurid colors and yet more lurid emotions. Set during the excesses of the Tang Dynasty's corrupt tail end (923-936 AD), it unfolds almost entirely within the walls of the imperial palace and opens as the household rises to prepare for the arrival of the emperor (Chow Yun Fat) and Prince Jai (Jay Chou), who's returning from three years of waging war on his father's behalf along the empire's northern border. The empress (Gong Li) waits at home with her stepson, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), and with sullen Prince Yu (Qin Junjie), Jai's younger brother. Though the household functions like a piece of intricate clockwork — eunuchs and ladies' maids rise and dress in unison, servants call out the hours, kitchen hands chop and slice and simmer with the precision of finely calibrated machines — its inner workings are a seething morass of unruly impulses. The empress' daily treament for an unspecified ailment — expressly ordered by her husband and personally overseen by the imperial doctor (Ni Dahong) and his loyal daughter, Chan (Li Man) — is making her sicker — is she being poisoned? Perhaps because she's embroiled in a long-standing affair with Prince Wan? The dissolute Wan, in turn, is secretly trysting with Chan and plans to ask the emperor for permission to leave the palace and go to a provincial capital. The emperor intends to pass Wan over in favor of Prince Jai, a warrior after his own heart, but Jai is torn between his powerful father and his suffering mother. Simmering resentments and secret plans come to a head during the lavish Chrysanthemum Festival, and by the time it's over the golden flowers are stained a very different color. Zhang's leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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Curse Of The Golden Flower
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