Curse of the Golden Flower

Film
GOLD RUSH Gong and Chow sparkle.
GOLD RUSH Gong and Chow sparkle.

Time Out says

It will sound blasphemous to hard-core martial-arts fans, but watching the latest from director Zhang Yimou, I was reminded of Busby Berkeley. Berkeley, of course, was famous for choreographing wave upon wave of costumed showgirls in films like Gold Diggers of 1935.Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang’s follow-up to Hero and House of Flying Daggers, suggests a director similarly dedicated to moving huge masses of people around the screen in a perverse, mesmerizing ballet. Zhang’s bodies may be golden-armored, spear-throwing soldiers of Tang dynasty China—and computer-generated at that—yet the effect is strangely the same: You’re left slack-jawed at the gorgeous craziness of it all.

Curse’s story concerns a 10th-century empress (Zhang muse Gong) who is slowly being poisoned by the emperor (Hong Kong legend Chow) while having an affair with her stepson, the crown prince (Liu), and plotting a palace coup with her own son (Chou). Curse doesn’t possess the pristine art-house beauty of Hero and Daggers; perhaps it’s the toxic spectacle of watching this nutjob family descend into an orgy of self-inflicted violence. Where Zhang can take the formula from here is anybody’s guess. Say—how about a wuxia musical? (Opens Thu 21; Click here for venues.) — Tom Beer

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