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Monday, April 16, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower - review

Curse of the Golden Flower (15)
Dir. Zhang Yimou

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Curse Of The Golden Flower, or ‘Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia’ to give it its catchy original Chinese title, is a mind melting tale of intrigue, honour and serious family unrest from the opulent tenth century Tang Dynasty.
From the maker of the excellent Hero and heartbreakingly beautiful House of the Flying Daggers – Golden Flower is the largest in scale of his loose trilogy. This is your golden ticket to take a trip behind the closed ninja guarded doors of the Emperor Ping’s secret court and get to meet his not so happy family. Think East Enders but in a royal palace, where poisoning, plotting and hand-to-hand combat are everyday occurrences. It’s a dizzying, dazzling visual experience that is likely to stay with you as long as you live… Everything here is hyper-real and it certainly throws down the gauntlet to all other ‘spectacle’ films this year - as few will manage to match this for sheer over the top elaborateness.
The gorgeous Gong Li stars as the bitter Empress who is being purposefully driven insane by her husband even as she plots to overthrow him and have her favoured son Crown Prince Wan (Ye Liu) replace him. And when I say ‘favoured’ I must warn you that this is a mother / son relationship that has gone incestuously and dangerously awry.
So when Prince Jai (Jay Chou) returns home for Festival of Chrysanthemums, things escalate to a violent head involving a climatic assault on the palace by thousands of armoured warriors in a true battle royal.
What Curse of the Golden Flower doesn’t have is as many action scenes as ‘Hero’ or ‘Daggers’ did and without these powerhouse regular adrenalin bursts it does feel a bit of an emotional slog at points. Having said that, the few battle sequences on offer here are really excellent (especially the ‘flying ninja pursuit’ and final showdown) but if you’re expecting two hours of butt kicking you’ll be sadly disappointed.
Golden Flower is probably best described as a violent docudrama tragedy which plays out like an oriental Shakespeare play. The combination of memorable visuals, a cunningly twisted plot and masses of exposition make this an Eastern epic oddity that deserves to be witnessed on the big screen but may not follow it’s brethren so quickly into your DVD collection…

Darkmatters rating system (out of 5):
Action ööö
– great but sparodic
Laughs öö – some amusing intrigue
Horror ööö – gets bloody on parts
Babes ööö – some fine bodice wearing concubines

Overall ööö1/2 (bloated but powerful)

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1 comment:

Tom Wade said...

bloated and bollocks more like...