CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, THE: DVD
Golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace on the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, when the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns with his second son Prince Jai (Jay Chou) to celebrate with his family. But harmony is lacking between The Emperor and The Empress (Gong Li), who has been having an affair with her stepson the Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). Wan, however, is in love with the Imperial Doctor's daughter Chan (Li Man). The Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong) is privy to The Emperor's clandestine plans, and is quickly relocated with his wife Jiang Shi (Chen Jin) and daughter Chan, when a threat occurs. As the festival begins, an army of golden armoured warriors charge the palace, trampling thousands of golden chrysanthemums as blood spills across the Imperial Palace.
Review by Louise Keller:
Zhang Yimou's use of colour in this tragic tale of secrets, forbidden love and power struggles is truly dazzling. In many of the scenes, I felt as though I had been transported into a kaleidoscope, where gold and red swirl together in a whirlwind of beauty. With its grand scale production, exquisite costumes, make up and settings, The Curse of the Golden Flower is gorgeous to look at and every bit as ornate as The House of the Flying Daggers. However, the dense and complex plot is a muddle and works best when dealing with the central relationships and matters of the heart. Superstar icons Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat exude charisma and their emotional drama is more potent than all the grandiose digital battle scenes which are adept in distancing us.
Set in China in the 10th Century, the source material derives from a Chinese play that takes a fictional look at the extravagance of the royals of the Tang Dynasty. Love, deception and betrayal are the central themes, which simmer before exploding to a shattering conclusion as the epic battle is played out. Swathed in lavish robes, Li has never looked lovelier as the troubled Empress, whose personal life is as complicated the ritual, in which she takes her regular herbal medicine. The newly added secret ingredient formulated by Yun-Fat's Emperor, is a deadly one and there could be no more traumatic way in which the Empress discovers it. In keeping with the golden yellow of the chrysanthemum, gold is the film's key colour. The multi-layered golden gowns, the shimmering gold make-up, the gold accessories are all glorious, while the lighting plays with colourful Chinese glass, reflecting through windows, from carved pillars, decorated walls and transparent screens which act as a barrier without hindering sight lines.
Majestic, grand and ceremonial, passion is a formidable player in the intricate plot, as the Emperor's oldest son battles against his own desires with the lovely Chan (Li Man). When a mysterious woman in black appears, she solves one problem, but creates another that is far greater, reinforcing that love is nothing but a hindrance. The climactic battle between the black and the gold armies brandishing scythes is filled with drama, yet its technical brilliance is dampened by its lack of humanity. Perhaps that is the curse of Zhang Yimou's Golden Flower.
In the documentary on the DVD, director Zhang Yimou quotes an old Chinese saying 'Gold and jade outside; rot and decay inside', as he describes the dark and appalling truth beneath the story's beautiful exterior. The 2-disc DVD also features a couple of featurettes about the Emperor and the Empress, plus trailers and photo galleries.
Published August 23, 2007
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CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, THE: DVD (M)
(Hong Kong/China, 2006)
Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia
CAST: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Ye Liu, Dahong Ni, Junjie Qin, Li Man, Chen Jin
PRODUCER: William Kong, Weiping Zhang, Yimou Zhang
DIRECTOR: Zhang Yimou
SCRIPT: Zhang Yimou (play by Yu Cao)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xiaoding Zhao
EDITOR: Not credited
MUSIC: Shigeru Umebayashi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tingxiao Huo
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette - Emperor, Empress; documentary 'Secrets within' trailers, photo gallery
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: August 22, 2007