'Curse of the Golden Flower'
(Yun-Fat Chow, Li Gong, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / Sony Pictures Classics)
Overview: From the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers comes the martial arts epic masterpiece whose savage beauty and exquisite elegance has mesmerized and captivated audiences around the world. Set in the lavish and breathtakingly colorful world hidden from the eyes of mere mortals behind the walls of the Forbidden City, a tale of a royal family divided against itself builds to a mythic climax as lines are crossed, trust is betrayed, and family blood is spilled in the quest for redemption and revenge.
DVD Verdict: As depraved and corrupt as the House of Thebes, as morally bankrupt as the Hubbard/Giddens family in Lillian Hellman's "Little Foxes" or George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia
Woolf," (all of which this film calls to mind) Zhang Yimou's "The Curse of the Golden Flower," though huge in scale is at it's core an intimate family (albeit a majorly dysfunctional family) drama which unfolds during the Later Tang Dynasty (923-936 AD), a time of corruption, dictatorship and warfare - with a mind-blowing, color-soaked brilliance and an almost insane excess that does over-ripe justice to the passions and intrigues that are raging full throttle inside the palace.
The sinister ensemble cast includes an evil emperor (Chow Yun Fat), his desperate wife (Gong Li), his three wildly contrasting sons and heirs (Liu Ye, Jay Chou and Qin Junjie), the troubled imperial doctor (Ni Dahong) and the doctor's bitter wife (Chen Jin) and naive daughter (Li Man), both of whom have secrets that could destroy an empire.
Though all of the performances are first rate, Gong Li as the pathetic consort to the Emperor and Jay Chou as Prince Jai show us the pain and heartbreak behind all the bravura acting: these are brave performances that not only come from the mind but also from heart and the soul of these performers; a particularly difficult task based on all the grandeur and pomposity surrounding them.
"The Curse of the Golden Flower" is eye-poppingly gorgeous to look at yet Zhang Yimou nonetheless has managed to, in the midst of the thousands of extras, millions of flowers and opulent and decadent costumes, produced a very thoughtful and tragic drama about a family that can't resist its basest impulses and in the process demolishes and destroys itself from within: love exists here but its a love twisted upon itself and dessicated by the bile and vomitus of distrust and depravity. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
“Secrets Within” behind-the-scenes featurette
Los Angeles Premiere