Curse Of The Golden Flower (15)



Action (2006)
113mins Chi

Starring: Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Jay Chou, Liu Ye
Director: Zhang Yimou
Writer(s): Cao Yu, Zhang Yimou
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

The emperor and his son Prince Jai return from the wars with the Mongols to celebrate the upcoming Chong Yang Festival at the Imperial Palace with the rest of the family, including the Empress, eldest boy Crown Prince Wan and youngest son Prince Yu. With her health failing, the Empress schemes to install Jai on the throne and restore the Tang Dynasty to its former splendour. However, her husband has other ideas.

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LondonNet Film Review by Jill Hilbrenner
Curse Of The Golden Flower

"Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside," or so goes an old Chinese saying. Nothing could more accurately summarise the twisted lives of the imperial family in power during the Later Tang dynasty, one of the most ostentatious periods in the country's history...

The Curse of the Golden Flower. Copyright:  2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Just mapping out the lines of betrayal in this regally scandalous 10th-century bunch takes a bit of concentration. The Empress (Gong Li) isn't so fond of her power-glutton Emperor husband (Chow Yun Fat), but she makes up for some of her distress by sleeping with her stepson, the Crown Prince (Liu Ye). And her failing health is a problem, one that's aggravated by the poisonous black fungus her loving husband has requested that the Imperial Doctor slip in the concoction she takes for her "anaemia" every two hours.

Life isn't so simple for the Crown Prince, whose cavorting with one of the palace's pretty servants and ambitions of relocation to a provincial capital have the Empress fuming. As her not-so-magical mushroom concoction eases her further toward convulsion-riddled madness, clouds of deception and distrust overshadow the lavish preparations for the upcoming Chong Yang Festival, supposedly a time of familial good fortune.

Loyal to his mother but obligated to respect his father's authority, middle son Prince Jai (Jay Chou) is left with a difficult decision as the Empress mounts a vindicating coup against her icy authoritarian spouse.

The Curse of the Golden Flower. Copyright:  2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Director-cowriter Zhang Yimou places all this drama against an elaborate technicolour backdrop. The palace is awash with golds, reds and greens, and the imperial courtyard becomes a sea of yellow as servants cover the ground with thousands of blooming chrysanthemums for the celebration.

But diehard action film lovers might argue that for all its showiness, Curse of the Golden Flower lacks the punch of a typical fight-saturated flick. Black-clad assassins who seemingly fly out of nowhere spark a rush of adrenaline, however, and the film's major battle scene is nothing to be taken lightly, as swarms of silver- and golden-armoured fighters trample the Chong Yang chrysanthemums in a bloody showdown.

Some of Yimou's apparent life lessons (such as that too much power can be dangerous) border on melodramatic, but watching a family that should have everything rip itself apart is entertaining enough. Curse of the Golden Flower is no House of Flying Daggers, although with top-class performances from Li and Chou and sets that emulate opulence, it's a spectacle worth seeing.

- Jill Hilbrenner

Watch Trailer and Clips
Read Gong Li's Interview

LondonNet Film Review by Jo Planter
Curse Of The Golden Flower

Following hot on the heels of Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, director Zhang Yimou's latest martial arts epic is another opulent affair, dripping in fine silks and breathtaking colour, with equally astounding fight sequences...

The Curse of the Golden Flower. Copyright:  2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Gold shimmers in every frame: in the vast palaces of the flamboyant Tang dynasty in 928 A.D., and their lavish handmade costumes, studded with intricate detail and fine embroidery.

Curse Of The Golden Flower is nothing if not a spectacle and director of photography Zhao Xiaoding ensures that all of the hard work of production designer Huo Tingxiao and costume designer Yee Chung Man radiates from the big screen.

Action director Ching Siu-Tong, who choreographed the skirmishes in the previous two films, excels himself here, with some bloody and brutal aerial assaults and a climactic showdown that witnesses the clash of thousands of soldiers in a sea of golden chrysanthemums.

Sword fights are similarly dramatic, sparks flying off clashing blades, with plentiful spurts of blood, bathing the land in a dark red hue.

The seeds of the conflict are planted when The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) and his middle son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), return from war to the Imperial Palace to honour their ancestors as part of the Chong Yang Festival. The Emperor is unaware that his wife, The Empress (Gong Li), who is gravely ill, has for the past three years taken her stepson, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), as her lover.

The Curse of the Golden Flower. Copyright:  2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.The eldest son and heir-to-be has a secret of his own: he is secretly in love with Chan (Li Man), daughter of the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong), and Wan plans to leave the palace to live in the provincial capital. The Empress forbids him to leave and begins her devious scheming.

She is not the only person with self-interest in her heart. Jai has his eye on the throne and is keen to impress his talents as a ruler on his father. "There are many things in Heaven and Earth but you can only take what I choose to give to you," warns The Emperor.

The various plots and deceptions unfold at dizzying speed and it seems that The Empress' audacious plan may come to naught. "I refuse to give up without a fight!" she declares and so the war of attrition begins.

Curse Of The Golden Flower will appeal greatly to devotees of Yimou's work and to fans of gorgeously framed epics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which strike a delicate balance between thrills and emotion.

The cast acquit themselves beautifully to the task at hand, with some delicious verbal sparring between Yun Fat and Li. If looks could kill, their characters would unleash a bloodbath without raising a sword. The tightly wound plot unravels chaotically towards the end, descending into the realms of soap opera with more twists than credibility allows.

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Clip 1 - I know

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Clip 2 -Calligraphy

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