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滿城盡帶黃金甲 (2006)
Curse of the Golden Flower

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Flashy fun

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 07/13/2010
Summary: gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside...

there is something foul in the royal house of the tang dynasty. the emperor (chow yun-fat), whilst wanting to present the image of a family united, has recently begun poisoning his wife, the empress (gong li). the empress has long since lost any love that she had for the emperor and has been having an intimate affair with her step-son, the crown prince wan (lau yip), for over three years. wan has been having an affair with the daughter of the imperial doctor, chan (li man), and has no aspiration to rise to the throne, instead he dreams of leaving the royal palace and living a less regimented life. the eldest of the empress's two sons, prince jai (jay chou), has just returned to the palace, after three years service with the army, to find a family divided and his loyalties tested. the youngest prince, yu (qin jun-jie), has been growing up and, regardless of the lack of interest the emperor and empress show him, quietly observing a family that is rotting from its very core.

with the chrysanthemum festival just around the corner it looks as if the delicate thread, which is holding the royal family together, may snap...

where on earth do i start?

well, this is zhang yimou's third period, "action" epic; following on from his art-house, wu xia hybrid 'hero' and the more commercial, love story with sword-play, 'house of flying daggers', 'the curse of the golden flower' represents another shift in zhang's approach. what we get here, according to zhang, can be summed up by an old chinese saying "gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside":a (melo)drama charting the final stages of decay, consuming a lavish royal household. initial reports seemed to carry this metaphor into their critiques, suggesting that 'the curse of the golden flower', another in the increasing line of films that bears the mantle 'china's most expensive production ever!'; presents little of worth, behind its opulent appearance. a seemingly fashionable opinion, but not one that i can agree with.

i'll admit that i was expecting this to be, what is technically known as, a stinker but, i think, i was wrong. still, i suppose expectations may influence your opinions of this film; much has been made of the reunion between zhang yimou and his one-time muse (and alleged lover), gong li, but the result only has touches of the simmering, art-house dramas that propelled the pair to stardom. in the same respect, 'the curse of the golden flower' has only a little in common with the two wu xia heavy productions, zhang has recently delivered. what we get does, undeniably, hint at both of these approaches, but they have been turned on their heads. in the same way that spinal tap had amplifiers that went up to eleven: zhang yimou has gone "one louder".

with a (comparatively) gigantic budget of us$45million, zhang is obviously keen to show exactly where the money has gone; from the palace's exterior, the biggest set ever built, to the lush interiors and simply astounding costumes, no expense has been spared. 'the banquet', despite its simply incredible sets, costumes and production design, now seems a little sparse and minimalistic in comparison. art-director hu ting-xiao dwarfs emperor qin's palace, which he created for 'hero' and injects more colour and ornate, lavish detail than was exhibited in 'house of flying daggers's peony pavilion: he too, has gone "one louder". from the incredible scale of the exterior, to an interior that is simply packed with gold, crystal, glass and a rainbow of colours; such over the top production design hasn't been seen since 'flash gordon' graced the silver screen, like a wild lsd trip.

as for the costumes, chow yun-fat jokes; "i am not that good an actor, the costumes made the character." whilst this isn't true, yee chung-man, following on from his award winning work on 'perhaps love', has created a simply stunning wardrobe for every member of the royal household. in keeping with the extravagance shown throughout the other aspects of the production design, they surpass the legendary opulence of the tang dynasty. of particular note are the dragon and phoenix robes, inhabited by the emperor and empress, respectively, for the film's finale: it took a team of forty people two months to complete the costumes, which are painstakingly embroidered and accessorised by hand. now, one aspect of the costume design that every single reviewer has mentioned is the amount cleavage that is shown; and, who am i to go against the grain? indeed, every female character in the film, barring the imperial doctor's wife, is showing a lot more skin that one would expect. is this yee, embracing the film's slightly deranged aesthetics, or is it zhang, making a point about the objectification of women in the male dominated feudal society that he is showing? i have no idea, but it certainly adds a little more credence to my 'flash gordon' comparison.

perhaps the least visually intrusive aspect of 'the curse of the golden flower' is the cgi. the work, done by mpc (who have, most notably, contributed to 'casino royale', 'x-men : the last stand', 'charlie and the chocolate factory' and the 'harry potter' films), is the best that i have seen in any chinese production. in contrast to the other contributors, their input is subtle; serving only to enhance the more epic crowd / battle sequences, within the royal palace, and adding the final touches to ching sui-tung's finely choreographed action sequences. the scope of the film's final, epic conflict may be described as ridiculous, but the work of mpc is inconspicuous.

having already digested the film's synopsis and a description its visual extravagance, you're probably wondering how they sit together. well, in my opinion, it works; as the scope and scale of the film builds to a climatic conclusion, zhang's narrative spirals to a suitably dramatic peak that holds its own, alongside. the "rot and decay" of the royal house is already in full swing as the story begins but, as we learn about the motives, agendas and secrets that dominate the lives of its characters, drama gives way to melodrama as truths rise to the surface and the family implodes in tragedy. it may sound as if i'm criticising this film but, believe me, i'm not. despite the occasionally outlandish qualities of every aspect of the film, as i've already said, it works. the characters are not as complex as those who usually inhabit zhang's films but, with the chrysanthemum festival swiftly being established as an ideal narrative boiling-point, the simmering atmosphere builds and builds as things get 'turned up to eleven': the secrets become bigger and the impact of the truth grows, until it finally boils over. zhang claims to be analysing the corruption and mendacity which lay beneath the ostentatious surface of feudal china, denying that he is making any kind of comment about contemporary china.

the actors that have been chosen to portray this family are, suitably, cinematic royalty. chow yun-fat, making his first chinese film in over five years, is an imposing and imperious figure, delivering both the external gravitas and inner turmoil of the emperor on screen. it's good to see him back. after a similar absence, and a full eleven years since her last collaboration with zhang yimou, it's also good to see gong li back. for gong, the role of the empress, a tragic victim, is one that she inhabits comfortably (if that's not a contradiction). as the film's central character, the empress, in gong's hands, evokes sympathy on one hand but, ultimately, her fight-back shows that she can turn the screw, just as well as the emperor. the prince of taiwanese pop music, jay chou, slots nicely into the role of prince jai, easily surpassing my expectations of him. perhaps the casting of a new-comer (this is only his second role) was a master-stroke; the combination of his youthful confidence and his own insecurities as a singer who is trying to re-invent himself as an actor, parallels prince jai's physical strength and his conflicting loyalties. lau yip, crown prince wan, continues to build upon his impressive body of work, evoking empathy despite his short-comings. a special mention should go to li man, who plays wan's love interest and daughter to the imperial doctor, chan. in a debut performance, she shines; delicately evoking the youthful naivety of a young woman in love yet, as the film progresses, complimenting the empress' own tragedy with suitable intensity.

the action sequences in 'the curse of the golden flower' are suitably grand, with only a single one-on-one sequence; a father-son bonding exercise between a seated emperor (emphasising his superiority of station and power) and a youthfully athletic prince jai. perhaps this choice has as much to do with the cast; 'hero' and 'house of flying daggers' both had casts who were more than comfortable performing martial arts, whilst chow yun-fat is the only cast member with a pedigree in action cinema. never the less, ching sui-tung's contributions are of the quality that you would expect and live up to the grand scale, dictated by their surroundings; ensemble affairs that culminate in a huge battle which, despite its exorbitance, is bloody impressive. most impressive though, are the scenes involving the emperor's ninja-like assassins, who swing and slice their way across the scene in a way the harks back to ching's own, classic 'duel to the death'.

when all is said and done, perhaps because zhang has gone "one louder" in every way, 'the curse of the golden flower' is an entertaining spectacle. a quite remarkable production, which dazzles the senses and ramps up its emotional intensity in a way that could leave you speechless or seething. personally, i enjoyed seeing just what happens, when you turn your film up to eleven...

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 11/19/2008
Summary: Suprising it has action in this movie

Firstly i was suprised that this movie has some fight scenes in it, it was a pleasant suprise, i thought this movie was pure drama.

A production with many colours, reminisent of HERO to a lower degree.

The story itself is intriguing but seen before.

IVe seen seen so many asians with there boobs so squashed together, it reminded me of some olded day english corsets

Chow yun fat doesnt seem to be doing much in his role, gong li steals the show. The sons, they all look overly young and jay chow shows limited acting ability and the eldest son overacts

The fight scenes was better than expected.

What made this movie better than it should be is the high production value.

OVerall it is entertaining but may leave you a little disappointed at the end.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 06/12/2007
Summary: Guess I'm in the minority

After seeing some of the less than flattering reviews I almost decided to watch this again. I enjoyed it myself. It wasn't perfect but I thought it was pretty good.

The story of the ultimate dysfunctional Royal Family intrigued me. With plenty of plot twists and revelations sprinkled throughout. There was of course some problems with character development as has been pointed out in other reviews. There seemed to be a little too much emphasis on the Empress taking her medicine/poison and her diszzy spells. What also may have hurt the way some may have felt watching this film was there was no likable character.

The acting is where COTGF really took off. Chow Yun Fat & Gong Li were excellent as the loveless rulers. Jay Chou also impressed me although he didn't have enough dramatic lines I thought. I'm looking forward to seeing him again in the future. Newcomer Man Li also showed that she might be somone to look out for as well.

This might have been the best movie I've seen visually. From the incredible sets to the lavish costumes and the few fight scenes this was truly breathtaking at times.

Overall, while flawed I still found it to be a work of art. Very enjoyable.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 04/27/2007

Sporting one of the largest budgets ever for a Chinese production, the director of epics such as Hero, and the return of Chow Yun-Fat to the screen after a six year absence, The Curse of the Golden Flower was one of the most hotly anticipated movies of 2006. Does it deliver? In many ways, it does. But ultimately, it ends up feeling a bit hollow, and that is Golden Flower's main downfall.

Set during the tulmultous times of the Tang dynasty, Golden Flower focuses on the royal family, which is headed by the Emperor (played by Chow Yun-Fat). Preparing for the return of Prince Jai (Jay Chou) after three years in combat, the family's house seems to be in order. But things are not all they are cracked up to be, as the Empress (Gong Li) is planning to overthrow the Emperor.

As you might expect for a film of this type, Golden Flower's actual story and the way it plays out is much more complicated than the above simple plot description would lead you to believe. Almost immediately, this becomes a problem. Since none of the characters are really fleshed out, their motivations are never very clear. This leads to confusion for the viewer and, I would suspect, boredom for a great portion of the audience, which is kryptonite for a movie like this.

Yes, the movie does look outstanding. The sets and costumes are beyond compare -- simply stunning. But if there's nothing behing the opulence, what does it matter? Don't get me wrong. Golden Flower isn't total filmic mastrabutory fare -- though there are many times when it comes dangerously close to teetering over the edge from an actual movie to a technical demo.

There are a couple of factors which save Golden Flower from falling flat on its' face. The first is the action. Helmed by the legendary Ching Siu-Tung, Golden Flower features some outstanding sequences. Though they have too much CGI and too little blood for my tastes, one still cannot deny the sheer sonic and visual power of these scenes.

Secondly -- and most importantly -- is the acting. Though the actors don't have much to work with, they still manage to create interesting and intriguing (if incomplete) characters. Of particular note is Chow Yun-Fat, who seems to relish being able to eschew his usual "ultra cool" images and create an extremely flawed, yet still powerful, character. Gong Li also does a fine job, and, like every other review of this movie written by a straight male, I must point out how outstanding her cleavage looks.

Ultimately, The Curse of the Golden Flower is a bit underwhelming, but still worth a viewing. True, if the movie didn't have a big budget and didn't look so outstanding, it might have not even eked above the realm of the B-movie. But as it stands, it's a great-looking movie with some solid acting and decent action scenes -- which is all most fans of the genre really want anyway, isn't it?

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 02/20/2007
Summary: A Series of Dreamy, Surreal Stills

A film that sees the true return of thespian demi-god Chow Yun-Fat, as well as Gong Li's reuniting with Zhang Yimou: how can one not be excited?

And indeed, the film does not disappoint...or, rather, does not disappoint much...and certainly not quite in the way one would expect.

At one level, you could almost consider it a series of beautiful photos. In some scenes, the actors strike dramatic and affected poses, and the camera lingers...and it makes for wonderful stills.

The costumes and backdrops are stunning beyond fantasy art: eye candy taken to a level this reviewer has not previously seen.

The story and the characters are downright Byzantine (in the truest historical sense). People are sleeping with one another, plotting revolutions, murdering one another, and committing suicide: all of it being excessive to the point where the viewer simply fails to connect emotionally with these people. They are all thoroughly despicable. In fact, the character for which one has what little sympathy one can generate for any of these characters is the King (Chow Yun-Fat), who is a 'bad guy' in every sense. Yet, he reveals a humanness in his connection to his first wife, and their child, that makes him the most sympathetic character in the film--all the while still having a commanding stature, power, and confidence. One cannot help but feel awe for "this man who is truly king." And at that one level, the film strikes a chord. Chow Yun-Fat's performance, like many of the performances of his career, was subtle and perfect.

And as subtle as his performance was, it was in diametric opposition to Gong Li's performance, which had all the subtlety of a chainsaw; and in fact, appeared to be comically overacted. On the other hand, she was playing an utterly loathsome character, who was apparently on the verge of insanity. Maybe such a state induces one to behave in a fashion similar to a bad actor? Or is Gong Li simply a bad actor? Likely a bit of both, with a little less of the latter. In any case, Gong Li has a career largely based on roles where she is "free" to one-dimensionally overact...and thus, is likely overrated as an actor. Time and further performances will tell.

Relative acting abilities aside, Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat have attributes that lend themselves well to a visual film of this type: they are stunningly and perfectly majestic. Their royal appearance is perfect for their respective roles in this film. When Gong Li is on camera, in her beautiful garb, one is mesmerized. When Chow is on, one is awestruck.

The supporting performances were mixed. Lau Yip as the oldest prince had the best supporting performance; and, again, almost, but not quite, generating some sympathy in the viewer. The middle (?) prince's (Jay Chou Kit-Lun) performance was embarrassingly hammy at a few points, but overall acceptable if not altogether believable. Chen Jin as the King's first wife is pure old-school melodrama redux (if not homage), somewhat out of place here. And lastly, the use of the school-girl-cute Li Man in a rather meaningless plot digression role left one wondering "why?” Or, rather, WTF?

By the end of the film, one feels overwhelmed by the incredible visuals of homicide, suicide, brutality, inhumanity, colossal mass-murder, as well as unbelievable beauty...and yet, one feels very little emotion for any of it...because we never truly connect with anyone enough to care. Chow's performance aside, it's just, "wow, that looks great".

This movie is a surreal dream: beautiful, ugly, and yet, not quite associated with reality.

Recommended: for the visuals, Gong Li's majestic beauty, and Chow Yun-Fat's subtly perfect performance.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: timktai
Date: 02/07/2007
Summary: Viewers suffer with no payoff

Okay, I see where Zhang Yimou wanted to go with this movie, and to a large part he succeeds. Unfortunately he succeeds in making the viewer uncomfortable in the so-luxurious-they're-gaudy confines of the Forbidden Palace. Usually in movies of this type ("The Cook The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover" for one), there's some refuge that's free from violent colors and unpleasant noise where we can empathize with the underdog heroes, but in this case there isn't. Sorry to spoil it for you everybody. We've seen over the top CG-generated crowds and armies before, and the video-based effects don't look any better here.

In short, I couldn't wait to leave the theater after sitting through this awful production..

The acting was actually pretty good. Chow Yun Fat is good as the cool and imperious Emperor. Gong Li as the Empress goes above and beyond her usually great job at acting miserable. I think she won some acting awards for her role in this film. Jay Chou is, well, minimalist if you dig that sort of acting.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/21/2007

A few notes on “Curse of the Golden Flower”

Gong Li remains one of the most beautiful movie actresses working today—to striking looking that her it can overshadow her acting, which is was one of the high points of this movie.

Chow Yun Fat looked odd and out of place as a ninth century Emperor and all the constructive editing in the world can’t make him a credible action star. His acting ability and screen presence saved what was an extremely underwritten role.

Li Man, for whom this is the only credit (as opposed to about 65 for Chow and 28 for Gong Li) is breathtakingly beautiful and may develop into an actress. If so she will take the movie world by storm.

It is clear that Chen Jin, who has only one additional credit listed, is an experienced and talented actress who has been working somewhere—she was terrific.

The movie was both overblown and dull. The grandiosity of the set design, costumes and the entire mise en scene drew attention to itself to the detriment of character development, plot credibility (even within the universe created by the Zhang Yimou and his collaborators) and cinematography. The sheer size and scope of the Palace, the ninjas riding impossibly long steel wires, the interiors that were just missing a rotating mirrored ball to become a 1970s disco—after a short time all the “Gee Whiz” moments became boring. There was no suspense in the movie, no heightened awareness that something unusual was about to happen—most to what the characters did was shocking but none of it was surprising. Plots against the emperor, fratricide, poisonings, incest, sudden appearance of characters who had died years before, heroic stands against impossible odds—situations used by Shakespeare, O’Neill, Beaumarchais and many others, but much more effectively. In order for the audience to be moved we have to care about the characters who are doing these things. In “Curse of the Golden Flower” Chan and wife of the Imperial Doctor are the only sympathetic characters. Even Chan, for all her youth and beauty, has a lot to answer for but in the insane world of the Palace her crimes are no more than misdemeanors.

Just about everything on the screen is excessive. If a quart of blood sprayed on the walls looks good then a gallon will look better. Don’t bother killing hundreds of soldiers when thousands are available for slaughter. If a staircase of one hundred steps leading to a terrace is impressive, then one of five hundred will really knock them out. The weird costuming for the female characters—every one of them in every scene, I think—has already been commented upon and may be the most excessive aspect of this bloated movie.

This was an expensive movie and every dollar wound up on the screen—which in this case was not a good idea. More was definitely in this “Curse”.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/20/2007
Summary: 6.75/10 - pretty, but sometimes unintentionally silly

The Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and the Empress (Gong Li) do not have a happy marriage, but try to keep up appearances. The Crown Prince (Emperor's eldest son and presumed heir) was born to another woman, and doesn't seem entirely like future emperor material. The 2nd son (Jay Chou) returns from some years on the frontier apparently rather more of a man than he was, and than his elder half-brother still is. Obviously the Empress would rather have her own flesh and blood take the throne.

The story is rather Shakespearean, with more than a few similarities to Feng Xiaogang's THE BANQUET in fact, which was based on old Bill's Hamlet. Zhang's story is in fact based on a Chinese play from the 1930's, but transplanted to the Tang Dynasty - which no doubt brings out the Shakespeare-ness of the story all the more.

Curse of The Golden Flower is the latest 'most expensive movie made in China' (a title claimed at least twice a year, it seems), and evidently Zhang Yimou's homage to the female bosom, which manages to dominate the film's visuals even more than the insanely opulent sets and costumes that presumably ate most of that 'most expensive' budget. The focus on bouncing, quivering cleavages leads one to conclude that Zhang has just discovered boobies, rather later in life than most others of his gender, and is still overcome by delight, fascination and awe of the fact that women just carry them around on their bodies, all the time. Although it's Gong Li's cleavage that has got the most tongues wagging, she's actually out-cleavaged by newcomer Li Man.

Besides the cleavage, the film presents the kind of visual splendour that only a period film can - the Emperor's palace is a colourful place, with absolutely no expense spared on creating the sort of lavish, opulent, decadent environment that modern heads of state could never dream to surround themselves with (maybe the odd rapper could). Courtiers by the thousands wait hand and foot on the royals, in absolute obsiequence. Sounds like a perfect life, right? But with little or no external stresses, a family is wont to create them internally - or so we are led to conclude.

CURSE is the first collaboration between Zhang Yimou and Gong Li since 1995's SHANGHAI TRIAD, but it's a far cry from any of their previous films, so it's not really apparent that it actually means anything that they're working together again. Of course it is good to see Gong Li back on Chinese screens after a bit of a career lull, and she is as impressive as ever (thinking of her acting here). It's also Chow Yun-Fat's first Chinese-language film since CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (in fact, he's hardly done anything since then), and it's also good to see that he can still turn out a good performance when not trying to act in English.

But, whilst it's good to see these legends on screen again, it's not in a film without flaws. HERO was a really interesting work, taking Zhang Yimou's background in art films and cinematography and applying it to the wu xia genre to create a quite unique experience. HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS was a much more straightforward and commercial film, with some elements of unintentional comedy that were surprising from a director with such a history of smart, keenly observed films and a knack for bringing out career-creating performances from his cast. CURSE is definitely more HOUSE than HERO, with more than a few scenes that had the audience burst out in laughter when that was surely not the intent. There are some especially lamentable pieces of (over-)acting at points, and some plot points that evoked 'huh?' noises or more chortles. Perhaps it's inevitable that with a bigger film (and budget) it's harder for Zhang to keep his eye on all the fine details - though it was largely that eye for detail that made his earlier films so very, very good. Somehow he managed to keep both the big and the small in his eye for HERO, but perhaps he has had to delegate more to assistants on the later films, which I think had shorter production schedules.

It's no secret that Zhang Yimou made a conscious decision to move towards big budget, commercial films, as a strategic move to help bolster China's domestic film industry against the Hollywood machine. I'm not sure whether this has been a success or not yet, but it has produced some interesting movies. Unfortunately, each seems to be slightly less interesting than the last. I'd like to say "I hope he goes back to making smaller movies soon", but he already did that with RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES, which I thought was boring... so I just hope he makes more good films, whatever budget they have :-)


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 01/08/2007
Summary: Bold but lack of substance

Gold… gold… gold… and more gold. A colour one will not miss out as it takes up the primary colour of the whole set, clothing and to even tiny details like the accesorries. It is said to be a lavish production… which used up $45 million and way surpass Chen Kaige’s The Promise to rank itself as the most expensive Chinese film to date.

Well..it’s not a big surprise for me since it was a much awaited re-collaboration between Zhang Yi Mou and Gong Li. They both goes on different ways after Zhang made Gong Li a superstar in Raise the Red Lantern 16 years ago. Yes, it was that long ago since they both worked together. So yes, how can it not be lavish.. since it also incorporated the legendary Chow Yun Fat.

I WAS CONNED! Now… I went booking for the movies which stated the show was in mandarin. Well.. of course I expect to see the movie in mandarin because most of the stars speaks best in that language (except for Chow Yun Fat). Sigh… only to notice it was in some weird dubbed Cantonese language. Now.. I want a refund!

Okay… let me start telling you a bedtime story. Ah.. the opening of the movie is just so cool. Set in the Tang Dynasty which was during the 10 kingdoms era, it starts by teling out a lot about how everything in the royal palace works in a certain order and rules. And of course rules and order applies to everyone. The opening scene showing how the servants in the palace woke up, get dressed, make up was simply amazing and in order.

It then tells tale about Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) who is mother to the younger two brothers, Prince Jai (Jay Chow) and Prince Yu (Qin Junjie) and step-mother to the eldest, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). For the past 10 years, medication was served to her every 2 hours under Emperor Ping’s (Chow Yun Fat) order as he believes she is diagnosed with some mysterious illness.

On the surface, everything looks just so normal but what’s hidden beneath the calm surface just gotta be shocking.The Empress was deeply in love and had an affair with Crown Prince Wan for several years. As years pass by, the guilt over the relationship increases. He tries many ways to avoid the Empress as he then maintains a secret relationship with the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong)’s daughter Jiang Chan (Li Man).

The movie reaches to another level when Prince Jai comes in to the scene. Prince Jai was sent away and join the frontliners a few years ago as a punishment for his previous mistakes. As he is making his return to the palace before the Chung Yong Festival, a big welcome ceremony was arranged. However the Emperor cancelled the ceremony and rode out to meet the prince at the Official Inn where the prince stop and awaits further order.

There, the Emperor engage Prince Jai in a sword duel. I totally love this scene as it really shows the level of detailness on the armours. It quickly pan back to the Forbidden City showing it’s time for the Empress to take her medicine again. After experiencing seizures in the past month or so and a gradual deterioration in health, she began suspecting a change in the composition of the medication prescribed to her personally by her husband. One could really see how she was disgusted and her unwillingly to drink the medicine.

Jiang Chan was appointed as the new palace maid to serve medicine to the Empress. Being the daughter of the Imperial Doctor, she quickly discovers the addition of a poisonous secret ingrediant to the Empress new medication. This has put her in a difficult position as she have to proceed with her orders while having this guilts watching the Empress drink down the poisonous medicine. At one event, she refuses to drink the last mouthful.

It causes a big drama as the royal family sat together on the morning of the festival. The last mouthful of medicine which the Empress refuse to drink was served again under the Emperor’s order to give a clear picture to the royal family how important order and rules are and in a way, shows out how much power he has. The Empress unwillingly drink the remaining of the medicine when Prince Yu and Prince Wan begged her. Prince Yu request to be the commander of the palace guards on the night of the festival, however the task was passed to Prince Jai.

Knowing something is wrong, the Empress hires a spy which turns out to be the Imprial Doctor’s wife (Chen Jin). She infiltrates the palace and informs the Empress of the poisonous secret ingrediant in her medication. Unknown to many, she is the first wife of the Empror. She was betrayed by the Emperor and managed to escape from death and imprisonment without the Emperor’s knowledge. While escaping, she met and saved by the Imperial Doctor, whom she later married while concealing her identity, and gave birth to Jiang Chan.

As the spy attempted to leave the palace, she was captured by Prince Wan and was brought to the Emperor’s attention. After knowing who she was, the Emperor set her free and promoted the Imperial Doctor, and send them off as a form of repayment for his past misdeeds.

Prince Jai on the other hand is concerned about the Empress health. The Empress then inform Prince Jai about the secret ingrediant that has been added to her medication by the Emperor. She then asked Prince Jai to help her overthrown the Emperor and install Prince Jai as the new emperor. Being faithful and loyal, Prince Jai was in a dilemma but he quickly agrees to help the Empress when he sees her drinking the poisoned medication every day and yet she can’t object to it.

Prince Wan chase after Jiang Chan and met up with her at the Official’s Inn. There, their love affair was quickly discoverd by the Imperial Doctor’s wife. She was so furious and shoo-ed the prince away. Jiang Chan then secretly chase after Prince Wan. Just as the Imperial Doctor is about to ask his wife why she was so furious, they were attacked by a group of ninjas sent by the Emperor to kill the entire family as they know too much of the Emperor’s secrets.

Another set of soldiers in red and blue showed up in the movie saving Jiang Chan and her mother and ensuring their safety back to the palace. Jiang Chan and her mother ramp in to the palace just in time and as planned, the Empress plans to reveal the true identity of the Imperial Doctor’s wife, and her husband’s secrets to all.

Jiang Chan goes crazy upon knowing she was actually having a relationship with his own brother. Prince Yu took advantage of the havoc situation and stabbed Prince Wan till death. He tries to rebel and wanted the Emperor to crown him as Crown Prince. He was later whipped till death by the Emperor with his heavy belt.

On the outside of the palace, Prince Jai and a large troop of soldiers (all in gold armour and each wears a scarf with an embroidered Chrysanthemum) marches in to the unguarded palace. He then leads his army to the main palace only to know it was a trap. They we surrounded and all of the soldier was shot till death.

I totally love the setting especially the golden accesorries. However I felt the whole setting in the palace give me this feel as if I was looking through a kaleidoscope. I think it was a little too much colour for me to grab at one go and everything seems to just gel in smoothly as it is gold gold gold gold and more gold.

Well.. I have no problem with Zhang trying to set a new style but I just think it was too much cleavage and with Gong Li walking so fast most of the time.. it is kinda distracting. But I must say.. her performance was damn good and she proves no one else can come close to her in taking up this role. Her acting was so cool that at points… I think she even overshadow Chow.

Chow Yun Fat on the other hand… somehow make me felt his acting skills were declining. Jay.. haha.. what can I say… he just ain’t a professional actor and how he got casted for the movie is still a myth. Put that aside.. the ninjas was hilarious. Down to earth funny. They swing and make noise like tarzan and I don’t know. I just don’t see them fit in any Tang Dynasty setting not to mention them swinging was so fake.

But well the ending fight scene was even worst. The CGI was fake… and the worst part… the Emperor ordered to spare Prince Jai’s life… and the general sorta like tell it out loud. But then ordered the archers to shot at the army. Looking at the amount of arrows… how possible could it not hit the prince? A whole 10 thousand army was dead except him.

I somehow think this was not Zhang’s best work and like House of Flying Daggers… it’s a beautiful movie.. but it’s lack of substance and plot. Well yes, of course many would be blinded by the sets and all.. but I personally think you just can’t ride on the success and do the same thing over and over and over again. People will forgive you once for doing it… but not forever. It’s time to wake up Zhang!

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 12/31/2006
Summary: Two top actors at their best...

In Zhang Yimou's newest martial arts epic, the dark underbelly of the Tang dynasty royal family is exposed to the light. The Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and the Empress (Gong Li) loath each other in secret, but publicly put forth the face of the heads of a happy royal family. Anything other would leave the country with ill feelings about their leaders. After the return of the Empress's son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), from military training in the countryside, she discovers that the medicine she has been taking for years has, by the order of the Emperor, started to be laced with poison. With the Festival of Chrysanthemums occurring in just a few days, she starts to devise a plan for revenge. The Emperor and Empress use their three princes as pawns in their quests for power, and when the festival begins it sets into motion both of their final plays for the throne.

Having read a lot of somewhat negative reviews, I went into this film worrying a bit. I've always liked Zhang Yimou's films and I was afraid I was going to be witnessing a retread of Crouching Tiger. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Curse of the Golden Flower is an excellent drama piece, with a few martial arts scenes interspersed. If you go in expecting elaborately choreographed martial arts battles you'll be a bit disappointed. If you expect incredible sets and top-notch acting you'll be very pleased. Chow Yun-Fat amd Gong Li are absolutely mesmerizing and dominate every scene in which they appear. They are certainly two of the top actors in the world and prove it in every minute the are on screen. Jay Chou does an admirable job as well, as does the love interest of Prince Wan, Chan (Li Man). There is also an incredible final battle scene that typifies Yimou's tendency in the film to show hundreds of people doing the same thing. The look of tons of extras running in battle formation makes for quite a spectacle on the screen, as does the massive expanse of the Forbidden City as a field of combat. Curse of the Golden Flower is certainly in the same vein as Feng Xiaogang 's and Yimou's recent dramas, but can certainly stand on its own as a very enjoyable movie.


Reviewer Score: 8