Monday, May 7, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower

Posted by lea at 1:56 PM
Directed by Zhang Yimou, of Hero and House of Flying Daggers fame, this is a Chinese movie about palace intrigue, treachery, incest and betrayal amongst the most dysfunctional royal family in history – real or fictional.

State secrets are whispered through flimsy rice-paper walls, ninjas fall silently from the sky and, as with most Asian action movies, there’s a lot of stylish but unrealistic violence full of poses, 360 degree kicks, flying through the air… no one does it like the Chinese. Half the population is decimated in the main battle scene as the royal family descend into madness and cruelty, but when the bloodshed is over, endless resources of fresh soldiers (and chrysanthemums) seem to appear from nowhere.

Surprisingly, there are more cleavages than kicks (who knew Asian women could have such an abundant excess of bulbous white protuberances?) and the scenes are heavily plot-driven rather than going from one beautifully choreographed fighting scene to another, as we’ve come to expect from Yimou. Filmed on a grand scale with rich imagery (the costumes, palace and courtyard are incredibly impressive), the movie fails to engage because, as William Thackeray says of his book Vanity Fair, it’s a story without heroes. The only character worth liking (Prince Jai) is used as a pawn in the machinations of the only the two left standing at the end of the movie – the Emperor and Empress (played by Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li) who are the cause of the excessive bloodshed and heartache.

Rating: 6.5/10
It’s madness... literally!

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