Curse of the Golden Flower Movie Review

The closing film for the 10-day AFI Film Festival, Curse of the Golden Flower, was shown in the Cinerama Dome. This was the first showing outside of China and was very well received by the discriminating audience.

Curse of the Golden Flower is the latest, admittedly dark epic, spectacle from internationally acclaimed director Zhang Yimou- director of "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers". In his desire to make a period piece, a story from the past, he succeeded in bringing to the screen a glimpse of the 10th century Tang dynasty- an ostentatious time in China.

Set 1,000 years in the past, deep inside a fortressed imperial palace, life is not at all what it seems. As the director Zhang Yimou puts it, 'this is a family filled with secrets and full of complex relationships'- and boy is that an understatement! Yimou goes on the quote an old Chinese proverb: Gold and Jade on the outside rot and decay on the inside. He goes on to explain that beneath a beautiful exterior lays a dark and appalling truth. A very poignant proverb indeed; a story of a beautiful exterior with corruption within. Yimou suggests we look at this film as a story of feudalism which lasted more than 2,000 years in China where the women were oppressed and the father figure represented absolute authority and dominated all.

Chow Yun Fat is captivating as the feudal Emperor. At times, he exemplifies the Emperor with no heart, yet, at times, a heart does show. Nonetheless, he always gives off the sense that he is alone in his immense power. As expressed in an old Chinese saying' 'The higher you go, the lonelier you are'.  

Gong Li, the most revered leading actress in all of Asia, plays the tragic role of the Empress. A perfect compliment to Chow Yun Fat. Li plays this complex part to perfection as the central victim in the male-dominated society in which she was born.

Jay Chou, a newcomer in his second film, plays imperial son Prince Jie. A brave and gallant character possessing 'Xiao', defined as unconditional loyalty to one's parent, but is he ready to take the throne?

Curse of the Golden Flower, the most expensive film made in China, was full of phenomenally opulent sets that make you want to walk the corridors of the imaginary Imperial Palace (built from scratch at Beijing Studios) and gaze at the bejeweled pillars and magnificent rooms! The cast of what seemed to be tens of thousands had more than its share of beautiful women and handsome men dressed in some of the most spectacular, authentic looking costumes I have ever seen.

The grandeur of the film, which reflected that of China herself, was breathtaking. There is a scene after a particularly gruesome battle where masses of people come in to clean up the dead in what seems to be mere seconds. What is astounding about this is that it looked completely believable. You get the feeling of what can be accomplished when tens of thousands of people are working towards the same goal.

This movie does not hide from blood or gore and has its share of wonderfully choreographed scenes with flying and rappelling concepts developed from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and continued in Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers". The Asian, over-the-top fighting scenes were perfected so smoothly they were almost believable and added that extra thrill to the film.

Overall, the film is slow but captivating. There is not much of a story line but it is well worth seeing for the spectacle if nothing else. If possible, see the film at the Cinerama Dome to be fully enveloped in what it has to offer. There is no happily-ever-after ending as in most western films but this is probably more of what real life would present.

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