Monday, May 7, 2007

LondonNet Film Review by Jo Planter [Curse Of The Golden Flower]

Following hot on the heels of Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, director Zhang Yimou's latest martial arts epic is another opulent affair, dripping in fine silks and breathtaking colour, with equally astounding fight sequences...

Gold shimmers in every frame: in the vast palaces of the flamboyant Tang dynasty in 928 A.D., and their lavish handmade costumes, studded with intricate detail and fine embroidery.
Curse Of The Golden Flower is nothing if not a spectacle and director of photography Zhao Xiaoding ensures that all of the hard work of production designer Huo Tingxiao and costume designer Yee Chung Man radiates from the big screen.
Action director Ching Siu-Tong, who choreographed the skirmishes in the previous two films, excels himself here, with some bloody and brutal aerial assaults and a climactic showdown that witnesses the clash of thousands of soldiers in a sea of golden chrysanthemums.
Sword fights are similarly dramatic, sparks flying off clashing blades, with plentiful spurts of blood, bathing the land in a dark red hue.
The seeds of the conflict are planted when The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) and his middle son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), return from war to the Imperial Palace to honour their ancestors as part of the Chong Yang Festival. The Emperor is unaware that his wife, The Empress (Gong Li), who is gravely ill, has for the past three years taken her stepson, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), as her lover.
The eldest son and heir-to-be has a secret of his own: he is secretly in love with Chan (Li Man), daughter of the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong), and Wan plans to leave the palace to live in the provincial capital. The Empress forbids him to leave and begins her devious scheming.
She is not the only person with self-interest in her heart. Jai has his eye on the throne and is keen to impress his talents as a ruler on his father. "There are many things in Heaven and Earth but you can only take what I choose to give to you," warns The Emperor.
The various plots and deceptions unfold at dizzying speed and it seems that The Empress' audacious plan may come to naught. "I refuse to give up without a fight!" she declares and so the war of attrition begins.
Curse Of The Golden Flower will appeal greatly to devotees of Yimou's work and to fans of gorgeously framed epics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which strike a delicate balance between thrills and emotion.
The cast acquit themselves beautifully to the task at hand, with some delicious verbal sparring between Yun Fat and Li. If looks could kill, their characters would unleash a bloodbath without raising a sword. The tightly wound plot unravels chaotically towards the end, descending into the realms of soap opera with more twists than credibility allows.

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