3.5 out of 5 stars
The oriental epic “Curse of the Golden Flower” is visually spectacular, somewhat melodramatic, and grandly tragic.
In its lavishingly regal tapestry of golds and shades of reds, director Zhang Yimou creates such an action drama of pure opulence with shadows of a striking tapestry of conspiracy and bloodshed. Its richly detailed oriental feel equates to the heaviness of its theme. The palace intrigue and the machinations of power play open the gates of image and melodrama in this story of opulence, passion, political power, and rebellion.
From courtly intrigues to illicit sex and painstakingly bloody battle scenes, the histrionics of this movie brings such a heavy feeling until its end. It is executed with oriental action scenes and Chinese art-house pageantry that renders it like a garish familial opera filled with madness, incest, plots, counter-plots, and revolutionary motives.
“Curse of the Golden Flower” features gorgeous scenes draped in silk, brocade, gold, and jade for that cinematic candy effect. Yet, watching it for its visual splendor becomes the price to pay for the purely sensual pleasure of its imagery. The breathtaking cinematography, gorgeous period costumes, stupendously lovely backgrounds, and operatic mise-en-scéne manage to make even the most gruesome activities look really attractive. They all leaves the viewer stunned and amazed with every passing frame. Indeed, every frame beats for a family melodrama highlighted in a gorgeously epic scale. Its splendor seems to serve more like an Asian take to a Shakesperean royal tragedy.
Zhang does a marvelous job in contrasting the sumptuousness of the sets with the venomous brutality happening within the palace walls. The dynamic and compelling visuals promote his incredible eye for color and shots. The vibrant palette keeps up with the story’s passion through pulsating colors and ornate tapestries. His large-scale battle sequence tends to become quite a treat reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” battle sequences. Its epic scale and creative execution generates an impressively stirring effect.
The characters feature specific conflicting relational issues. But at the end of it all, it seems quite remote to the point that the audience goes out of the movie house somewhat full with the visual grandeur, but feeling quite exhausted with the tragedy and without any form of compassion for its characters.
“Curse of the Golden Flower” is not lacking spectacle, but it turns out needing a little more of that needed humanizing touch to fill in the gap. Its dysfunctional family theme as showcased in the Tang Dynasty becomes semi-hollow — being overpowered by the royal golden palette of its epic proportion to the point of overwhelming practically every other element of the story. Overall, it lacks the breathtaking sweep of the magnificent classic “Hero” or the intimately visual greens of “House of Flying Daggers.” Yet somehow, this movie remains worth seeing with its golden look and uncompromising audio-visual candor.
The ever-luminous Gong Li as Empress Phoenix looks very stately and sympathetic with her performance, while the wicked Chow Yun-Fat as Emperor Ping makes such a tyrant emperor. Within all its stirring conflicts, the performances of Liu Ye as Crown Prince Wan, Jay Chou as Prince Jai, and Junjie Qin as Prince Yu effectively contribute to the tragic fate of the family. The rest of the supporting characters also deliver quite well with what the script offers them.
“Curse of the Golden Flower” is not for everybody, but the sure thing about this motion picture offer is that its eye-popping visuals offer sheer beauty and epic sweep. Its morbid grandiosity is its own distinct accomplishment.
Shortlist of Las Vegas stores where you can buy Blu-rays/DVDs:
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