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Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (original title)
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During China's Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
...
...
...
Dahong Ni ...
...
Man Li ...
Jin Chen ...
Aaron C. Shang ...
Prince Liang (as Aaron Shang)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lisen Ai ...
Xiaoyi Chen ...
Xinhua Chen ...
Shusheng Cong ...
Bai Feng ...
Dingkong Feng ...
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Storyline

China, Later Tang Dynasty, 10th Century. On the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace. The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns unexpectedly with his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou). His pretext is to celebrate the holiday with his family, but given the chilled relations between the Emperor and the ailing Empress (Gong Li), this seems disingenuous. For many years, the Empress and Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson, have had an illicit liaison. Feeling trapped, Prince Wan dreams of escaping the palace with his secret love Chan (Li Man), the Imperial Doctor's daughter. Meanwhile, Prince Jai, the faithful son, grows worried over the Empress's health and her obsession with golden chrysanthemums. Could she be headed down an ominous path? The Emperor harbors equally clandestine plans; the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong) is the only one privy to his machinations. When the Emperor senses a looming threat, he relocates the doctor's family from the Palace to a ... Written by Sony Pictures Classics

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Queen's revenge will threaten an empire. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

12 January 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La maldición de la flor dorada  »

Box Office

Budget:

$45,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$711,336 (USA) (22 December 2006)

Gross:

$6,565,495 (USA) (23 March 2007)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

More than 1000 real soldiers were used in the final battle. See more »

Goofs

Given Chan leaves the inn almost immediately after Wan does, why does it take so long for her to reach the palace? (Consider everything that happens to Wan after he arrives back but before Chan arrives.) See more »

Quotes

Emperor Ping: What I do not give, you must never take by force.
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Connections

Version of Lei yu (1957) See more »

Soundtracks

Juhua Tai
("Chrysanthemum Terrace")
Composed & Performed by Jay Chou
Lyrics by Vincent Fang
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Much that glitters, little that's gold
25 August 2011 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Curse of the Golden Flower is a step up in budget from Zhang Yimou's Hero and House of Flying Daggers, but it's a step back in terms of drama: much that glitters, little that's gold. Set in a palace where everything is a spectacular and highly regimented ritual done on an epic scale, whether it is servants dressing by the hundreds or preparing food and medicine, it focuses on the kind of royal family who make the Plantageneats in The Lion in Winter look like the Waltons. He's poisoning her, she's planning a coup against him and the Crown Prince has gone from an affair with his stepmom to one with his half-sister... Yet for all the poisoning and plotting the problem is that it's rather dull. It never descends into outright boredom, but it doesn't particularly engage for most of the first two thirds.

As usual with Yimou, the moral of the tale is ambiguous: on one level it could be don't go against the natural order, no matter how unfair it seems (father knows best, even if he is poisoning mum), on another it could be know your place no matter how inexplicably cruel you may find the ruling regime. Or it could just be a good old-fashioned tragedy with unhappy endings all round. On a more dramatically successful film maybe the ambiguity wouldn't be so niggling, but with such huge resources thrown at it to such little effect, you feel that it should all add up to SOMETHING.

True, a lot of money has been visibly lavished on the film, but it rarely feels wisely spent. That the corridors of the palace look like they've been designed by a Bombay stallholder with unlimited funds, more garish than opulent, make many of the interiors look more a monument to bad taste than a glittering façade to hide the corruption within. The wonderfully conceived use of colour and design of Hero and House of Flying Daggers here gives way to visual overkill. Forget the golden flower, this definitely suffers from the curse of too much CGi in the final battle as the addition of an increasingly unfeasible number of perfectly synchronized digital extras completely swamp the human element the scene needs to succeed. When the CGi golden army attacks the palace it doesn't really impress as much as it should - the CGi is good enough, but it's also too controlled and uniform, lacking the feeling of spontaneity you get with real extras. Maybe it's just that the look is so overexposed that digital extras seem too much of a cheat to impress the way that going to all the trouble of using the real thing did. After all, when so much is done in the computer, what physical human effort is left to admire? Nor does the individual fight choreography impress as much as in Yimou's previous films. There is even some surprisingly clumsy editing of mismatched shots in the 'smaller' scenes that make you wonder whether Yimou wants to draw attention to them or simply doesn't care enough to finesse them. Perhaps it's telling that the film's most visually effective moment is the massive co-ordinated cleanup operation after the battle as the bodies are dragged away and the palace is quickly restored to normality and that only the film's final scene has the kind of real emotional power that the rest of the film could have done with.

It seems oddly significant that despite the epic scale, only 8 of the cast are credited while the crew, designers, costumers and computer technicians are billed at great length: people really don't seem to be the film's priority. That's sadly reflected in some of the performances. Perhaps it's because the once prolific Chow Yun Fat has worked so little this century that it's genuinely surprising to see how much he's visibly aged as the Emperor. While this is used to some effect, we rarely see why he does what he does, which tends to render him more of a shallow villain when the circumstances really merit. It's certainly hard to see him as the wronged party when his revenge is so ruthless and calculated. But sadly most of the performances are decidedly one-note while the cast wait for their big scenes, with only the female cast making much impression (the film is good on the submissive role women were forced to accept). Yet as good as Jin Chen is as the Emperor's wronged first wife, it's Gong Li who really impresses, and how. As the Empress trying to hold onto her sanity long enough to depose her husband before his poisoned medicine turns her into a living ghost she's remarkably powerful without ever overstating: it's the small details rather than the grand gestures that really count with her. Unfortunately as her stepson and lover, Ye Liu overacts the sensitive angst almost enough to make Nicholas Tse look subtle, yet somehow in their scenes together Gong Li still manages to keep them from sliding away into pure melodrama. Sadly, her efforts are never quite enough to make up for the film's shortcomings.


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