Curse of the Golden Flower

Film, Action and adventure
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Curse of the Golden Flower
Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat) returns to Beijing for the chrysanthemum-themed Chong Yang festival with his middle son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), who has been leading the campaign against the Mongols. Back home, Ping’s Empress (Gong Li) is swathed in luxury but testily ailing, quaffing foul-looking medicines when not carrying on with her stepson, wan Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). Throw in a neglected youngest prince, a mysterious stranger in black and thousands upon thousands of troops with shifting loyalties and it’s shaping up to be a fractious family holiday…

‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ continues the epic wuxia cycle upon which Fifth Generation leading light Zhang Yimou unexpectedly embarked with 2003’s ‘Hero’ and its follow-up, ‘House of Flying Daggers’. The films share plots of constantly modulating intrigue, sumptuous period detail, hyperkinetic camerawork and grand-scale, CGI-enhanced combat but their breathless, saturated expressionism has yielded diminishing returns. ‘Curse…’ will give devotees of ‘Hero’ and ‘House… their money’s worth, but is too messy and highly strung to wholly transport.

The film’s first half is all palace plotting, in both narrative and conspiratorial senses, with over-complex twists and turns mirrored in the finely captured, often lavishly gaudy minutiae of decor and decorum on which the tenth-century royal residence runs. And once the action kicks in, Zhang co-ordinates some bravura sequences, including an airborne ninja squadron’s descent on a mounted group of fugitives. But there’s a hysteria to the central performances and a gigantism to the pitched battles that leaves little space for emotional engagement. The result is something like ‘Desperate Housewives’ of the Forbidden City.

By: Ben Walters


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 13 2007
Duration: 114 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Zhang Yimou
Screenwriter: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Qin Junjie
Chow Yun Fat
Chen Jin
Li Man
Gong Li
Ni Dahong
Jay Chou
Liu Ye

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

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1 person listening

The movie's isn't as bad as the reviewer makes out and, frankly, could well be the best of his wuxia trio. At least here Zhang knows what he is after - melodrama - and court intrigues keep the viewer guessing. Compared to "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" there is also less of an arthouse pretension. Whatever it is, it's worth catching, just don't expect a magnum opus on the level of, say, "Raise the Red Lantern".