Sunday, February 25, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower

The verdict: Excellent epic Shakespearian regal tragedy set in Tang Dynasty China... and it's got ninjas, bee-atch!
The rating: 8/10

PCMR's Recipe for Curse of the Golden Flower

Take two cupfuls of 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon', and pan-fry with one-third of 'The Last Emperor' (finely chopped).
Next, add half of Mike Leigh's 'Secrets and Lies', a pinch of 'Eastenders' and bring to the boil.
When the mixture is boiling, add a half-pint of 'Macbeth' and two tablespoonfuls of Battle Spices extracted from 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'. (Don't worry if you don't have the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to hand, any large-scale battle spices will suffice, 'Braveheart' or 'Troy' for example).
Now would be the time to add two cloves of cleavage from 'Dangerous Liaisons', and then leave to simmer.
When the mix has been simmering for a good hour, add a sprinkling of 'Oldboy', and just a pinch of 'Ran' to flavour.
After two hours, serve on a bed of Chow-Yun Fat and enjoy!

'Curse of the Golden Flower' is the most expensive Chinese movie production ever to hit cinema screens. Starring a trio of Crouching Tiger veterans, Golden Flower is a tragic tale of the emperor and his royal family, set in the time of the Tang Dynasty in ancient China. Chow-Yun Fat is excellent as the emperor, but this is essentially the story of the empress, and Li Gong steals this movie, so excellent is she as the tragic matriarch of this most dysfunctional of royal families. If you saw 'The Queen' recently, and thought the Windsors had a few issues, you ain't seen nothin yet buddy.

The emperor has three sons, the eldest of which is from a previous marriage, and who the emperor believes to be unfit to inherit the throne. For this reason, he is in the process of deciding to make his second son Jai (Jay Chou) the crown prince. Things get dark and complicated very early on, however, as the Empress appears to be infatuated with the eldest of the three sons, the crown prince Wan (Ye Liu) - but don't worry, no blood relation here, so it's not that bad, right? (Hmm - Ed) Ahem... aaanyway, the emperor may or may not have gotten wind of this, but he has decided to poison the empress, by adding a fungus to her daily doses of anemia medicine that will slowly drive her mad.

What follows includes numerous twists and turns, with each character involved in a dense web of intrigue that threatens to literally tear the family apart. The empress, aware of her husbands intention to poison her, busies herself by embroidering numerous chrysanthemums, the titular golden flower, but does she have a plot up her own sleeve, or is she simply going slowly insane?

The scale of this production is really quite breathtaking. The imperial palace is the setting for almost all of the action, and it is a place of vivid colours and dense ritualistic protocol, playing host to countless servants working on behalf of the different family members. In the scenes where we are exposed to palace life, director Yimou Zhang gives the audience the occasional glimpse of just how much manpower goes into, for example, the preparation of the average day in the palace. Sweeping wide shots of thousands of extras, all costumed and made-up to the hilt, are employed to reinforce the scale on which the palace operates, and the lack of CGI effects only serves to make the effect of this portrayal ever more acute. And the cleavage! There's blummin loads of it on show, more than even 'Dangerous Liaisons', I reckon... smashing stuff.

In keeping with the epic spirit of Crouching Tiger, there is also the required dose of large-scale battle action to enjoy. However, where 'House of Flying Daggers' fell down in this regard, Golden Flower succeeds. Rather than overloading the audience with one immense battle after another, the battle scenes in Golden Flower are used sparingly, and so have greater effect when they eventually splash across the screen in vivid colour, and also notably with nothing but real actors on show.

Also, there are ninjas, dude!! The ninja warriors in Golden Flower are mean, dammit, and they certainly mean business. The scenes with these guys will have people like Quentin Tarantino punching the air saying things like "that's what I'm talkin 'bout!", and why not, because they brilliantly executed and exhilarating to watch.

Although the storyline is tragic to the point of being melodramatic, the balance between the large-scale battle sequences, and the assorted personal difficulties of the royal family members is well handled by director Zhang. The battles, when they occur, are not the focus of the picture, but integrate well with the rest of the movie.

Li Gong's performance is truly excellent, and Chow Yun-Fat, once again, delivers a portrayal of a troubled emperor, loaded with regal charm and charisma, and of course replete with the occasional perfectly-timed arched eyebrow or two. ('Troubled emperor' is always a good part to be offered - Ed) The three sons are each played quite well, but Jay Chou is the best of them, and is the hero of the piece.

This movie deserves to be seen on the big screen, as the scale is honestly larger than anything you will have seen before, with the possible exception of 'Metropolis' or something from Akira Kurosawa. PCMR will recommend it as an intelligent, dramatic story, with seriously excellent battle sequences that are worth the admission price alone. The movie borrows heavily from other similar films that have preceded it, and also from Shakespearian plays such as 'Macbeth', but when the finished product is as coherent, sumptuous and exhilarating a cinematic experience as 'Curse of the Golden Flower', PCMR sees absolutely no problem with this. If you're still unsure, then let me go out on a limb here: it's better than 'Crouching Tiger' or 'House of Flying Daggers'. ('nuff said. - Ed)

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a Super cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Ran Movie Review

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