Monday, May 7, 2007

LondonNet Film Review by Jill Hilbrenner [Curse Of The Golden Flower]

Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside," or so goes an old Chinese saying. Nothing could more accurately summarise the twisted lives of the imperial family in power during the Later Tang dynasty, one of the most ostentatious periods in the country's history...

Just mapping out the lines of betrayal in this regally scandalous 10th-century bunch takes a bit of concentration. The Empress (Gong Li) isn't so fond of her power-glutton Emperor husband (Chow Yun Fat), but she makes up for some of her distress by sleeping with her stepson, the Crown Prince (Liu Ye). And her failing health is a problem, one that's aggravated by the poisonous black fungus her loving husband has requested that the Imperial Doctor slip in the concoction she takes for her "anaemia" every two hours.
Life isn't so simple for the Crown Prince, whose cavorting with one of the palace's pretty servants and ambitions of relocation to a provincial capital have the Empress fuming. As her not-so-magical mushroom concoction eases her further toward convulsion-riddled madness, clouds of deception and distrust overshadow the lavish preparations for the upcoming Chong Yang Festival, supposedly a time of familial good fortune.
Loyal to his mother but obligated to respect his father's authority, middle son Prince Jai (Jay Chou) is left with a difficult decision as the Empress mounts a vindicating coup against her icy authoritarian spouse.
Director-cowriter Zhang Yimou places all this drama against an elaborate technicolour backdrop. The palace is awash with golds, reds and greens, and the imperial courtyard becomes a sea of yellow as servants cover the ground with thousands of blooming chrysanthemums for the celebration.
But diehard action film lovers might argue that for all its showiness, Curse of the Golden Flower lacks the punch of a typical fight-saturated flick. Black-clad assassins who seemingly fly out of nowhere spark a rush of adrenaline, however, and the film's major battle scene is nothing to be taken lightly, as swarms of silver- and golden-armoured fighters trample the Chong Yang chrysanthemums in a bloody showdown.
Some of Yimou's apparent life lessons (such as that too much power can be dangerous) border on melodramatic, but watching a family that should have everything rip itself apart is entertaining enough. Curse of the Golden Flower is no House of Flying Daggers, although with top-class performances from Li and Chou and sets that emulate opulence, it's a spectacle worth seeing.
- Jill Hilbrenner

1 comment:

Jill said...

Hi - I wrote this and never had someone from your blog ask me to reprint it. Entirely.