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Just saw this film at a cinema near to my home in Wuhan China.I rated
it very high because it is the first film in the last three years which
can tell a story so smoothly. After the first Hollywood movie The
Fugitive(lead actor Harrison Ford) was admitted in my country, the
Chinese films changed forever by the affections of Hollywood movies.
But the Chinese film makers did not know how to tell a story in the
Hollywood way. Especially the film makers wanted to make BIG movie (the
movie making cost high) to gain the high profit in the market, but in
the same time they seemed like they forget how to tell a good story.
But Chinese audience is very tolerable, they watch they comment and
they despise. After all these years' BIG films' bombing, I watched a
good story telling film, why should I not be satisfied?
Disscusing this film in the technique way is not the important thing. All this years the BIG films all packed by the advanced techniques, but inside is a garbage.(sorry for the rude word, I can not say a better word for my poor English)
Somebody (maybe a lot of foreign people) may want to watch more KongFu in Chinese films. But what I want to say is KongFu is not the only part of Chinese Culture, in fact it never was the major part of Chinese Culture in the past three thousand years. I can say it because I know our country and her history.
The relationship and interaction of characters is the major part of film . This film is based on a novel Thunder Storm by Chao Yu in 40s of 20th century, and the background is changed to about 9th century.For the solid story by Chao Yu, the film is brilliant. And the success of this film is also a victory of Chinese writers. It proved that the real good novel can live all the time.
Thank you for read this.
I had the pleasure of seeing this film with special personal appearances by Zhang Yimou and Gong Li... I have to say I was blown away by it! I was not expecting a story with such depth...The cinematography, the art direction, and the sheer enormity of the visuals were staggering. Great sword work... exquisite wire sequences... and HUGE battles - but all done with an intensity that's stunning. And even more, the acting was superb - Chow Yung Fat is a master, and his scenes together with Gong Li are beautifully emotional. Gong Li is more beautiful than ever in a role that demands huge range from the first scene and never lets up... She does her best work ever! I have nothing but praise for this film. I can't wait to see it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am not sure what some of the critics and spoilers of the COTGF story
were expecting... I agree with the comparisons of Shakespearan
tragedies and royal family intrigues, and the reference to
dysfunctional families and meltdowns. Actually, I was thinking a lot
about the Lion in Winter transported in a Chinese setting. In the
English drama, the King simply has the Queen imprisoned for her
political rebellion. In this movie, the Emperor decides to slowly
poison the Empress because of her affair with his oldest son. Both lead
characters have their reasons for sticking to their planned course of
action. Also, I was reminded about the Borgias and some of the other
Italian, French and Greek royal dramas when emotions get totally out of
hand. Why do some viewers say that emotions are over the top or that
the females are too scantily clad? This movie shows that Chinese
characters can have very powerful human emotions: sexual
attraction,lust, filial love, greed, ambition... just like any other
people in the world.
And yes, the Chinese Imperial Palace is displayed on an extravagantly grand scale just because it is possible to do it only in China! China has more people than any other country and can afford the larger than life scenes in opulent settings.
The Emperor is at first shown as a kind father who wants to maintain a harmonious balance of family and state. Ultimately, we find out that he is a hypocritical megalomaniac who obliterated his first wife's family in his bid to become Emperor and will not allow anyone to cross his will in his kingdom. Interestingly, even for a blood thirsty dictator, he has his soft spot, and that is his love for his first born son, who means well but appears rather weak of morals.
The acting is very powerful: the epitome of Chinese acting is in the facial expressions within a restrained and mechanical setting (see Chinese opera) and both Gong Li and Cho Yung Fat do a great job in their roles. Watch the eyes and the hands... The occasional outbursts of real emotion when the character is pushed beyond its limits: see the Empress when she occasionally cannot help herself and tries to seduce the Crown Prince as a woman; see the Emperor when he toys with the Empress and shows her his kindness in prescribing herbal potions and her defiant reply makes him toss his arm in frustration; the final eruption of the despot when the youngest prince dares to rear up with hate...
I wonder if any dysfunctional family that lives with a totally controlling father and experiences his insane fits of punishment can relate with the control and violence shown at the end. He tolerates the Empress because she is a princess and very decorative and the mother of his 2 younger sons, and he even tolerated silently her affair for a while, but he will not tolerate her efforts to usurp him publicly. I can predict that the Empress will die a slow and humiliating death unless she finds a way to kill herself first.
What I picked up very clearly is the subtle form of psychological cruelty that underlies the Chinese concept of revenge. Many long-standing cultures understand this form of torture very well which goes above and beyond killing a person. Think about the movie Jean De La Florette where the protagonist is slowly killed by the grinding labor of finding non-existing water. It is the slowly grinding down of a person's will through day-in and day-out abuse. See the daily poisoning of the Empress under the guise of caring for her health. See the impossible ending offer to the rebellious prince to choose between killing his own mother with regular offering of the herbal potion versus death under his father's hand - the prince decides to end his life to get out of this insane set of situation. He actually succeeds in comparison to the eldest prince who tries suicide the previous evening and fails to slice his own throat.
Yes, the Emperor is ultimately an evil man because he sacrifices all that he loves for his political ambition to be the boss, but he has his human dimensions: he is attracted as a man to the 2 women he loves most in his life, as seen in their rare intimate moments together and he loves the first son unconditionally... Personally, I think that the characters are very well developed because they are complex, obsessed and quite multi-dimensional in their basic human drives. They make sense within the constraints in which they are cast.
This is a highly charged docudrama epic, instead of the
gladiator/hero-ish action flick its marketing led people to believe.
With that said, this is a very gripping film, almost to the point of
eerie realism, for those of us who are familiar with ancient royal
family politics. Betrayal, back-stabbing, assassination, adultery,
family tragedy,... everything that could go wrong in the the royal
court happened, and were woven in a way that made the complicated plot
that much more involving. More than once, I felt real tangible emotions
as events with each character/turning point deepens the tragedy. The
one aspect I don't like was the intensity of this film... its almost
like watching films the likes of Saving Private Ryan... more like a
stressful experience than simple entertainment.
However, if you go in expecting extravagant sword fights, kung-fu, battles, you are going to be disappointed.
Me and my girlfriend watched this in Guangzhou, China. It isn't exactly
a feel-good movie..
It's hard to describe what this film does, without spoiling the movie. And that structure is it's strength. Suffice to say, this is a very strongly woven movie, a movie where direction and production are the stars.
And that is also "Curse of the golden flower"'s weakness. This is, after all, a movie. Moviegoers are used to seeing the full spectrum of a movie; varied scenery and ambiance, multiple stories, realistic characters, a realistic society portrait, and so on. Certainly, this movie has strong characters, but like the imperial court setting, they are puppets. They never change their directions, they are forced to play the drama. Most of the action happens on the same 3-4 scenes, with the same characters. Like an opera; stereotypic, but intensely dramatic and glorious.
That said, this movie had an effect on me, and as mentioned, it is very well crafted. Without a doubt, it shows Yimou Zhang's skills in his profession, and I do recommend it. But don't expect a "movie" in the classical sense, expect Greek tragedy or opera-style drama.
Zhang Yimou was a very highly regarded filmmaker 5 years ago, before I
had ever heard of him. Then he earned a place in my heart by directing
both Hero and House of Flying Daggers. With those last two I felt like
I was in martial arts movie heaven, so I would instantly be interested
in any other future films that could approach those two in scope,
talent, and action. Curse of the Golden Flower focuses mostly on the
first two of those three traits, but besides, anything starring Chow
Yun-Fat will earn my attention like a bullet to the head. I do own The
Corrupter after all.
This is a film about a royal family, rather dysfunctional at that, in the 928 AD Tang Dynasty. Chow Yun-Fat is Emperor Ping, who from the way he handles his family and can anticipate any kind of attack or counterattack seems like quite the ruthless warlord. He has three sons: one is a teenager, who isn't given much regard but knows more than others think. The eldest of the three is the current crown prince, but doesn't seem to have any special talents, other than drawing the affections of the wrong women. The middle son is a great warrior and, of course, is now the favorite of the father. But these characters may be just pawns to Empress Phoenix (Gong Li), who is mother to the younger two brothers and step-mother to the eldest. Under normal circumstances she might be a great mother, wife, and Empress, but current circumstances, including a mystery illness, have forced her to take actions involving a secret plot to remove her husband from the throne.
This is not the action movie some might expect, though there is enough near the end to earn the R rating. It's basically a family drama, though in a rather fascinating and different setting for such a story. As you'd expect with a royal family, appearances are everything. Anything out of the ordinary has to happen in secret. All the normal everyday stuff is almost mechanical in nature. Whether you see dozens of servants getting up in the morning, or preparing food, or planting flowers, it all occurs in such a fiercely coordinated fashion. It would have been such a hard life, either being a royal or supporting one, but it would be a miserable life if one couldn't take any pride in what they did.
The filmmakers who designed and implemented all the sets and costumes should take a hell of a lot of pride in what they do. The family of this story, even while destroying themselves (and therefore their empire) from within, are living in the most lavish accommodations and outfits I've ever seen. I usually don't think much of costuming or set design, but I must say that after seeing Chow Yun-Fat's golden suit of armor, or anything Gong Li was in, or the design of their personal quarters, I really hope for some Oscar recognition. Perhaps the best I've ever seen in those areas.
Overall though, a good film, and a definite must for any Chow Yun-Fat fan to seem him play such a great villain, as with Sammo Hung in Sha Po Lang. It kept me interested throughout, but nothing too surprising happened in regards to story. It basically all went how I imagined it would.
Despite the millions of chrysanthemum flowers, ten thousand soldiers
and three prominent male cast (Chow Yun Fatt, Jay Chou and Liu Ye), one
thing will capture your attention. Make that two.
Gong Li and her titillating assets have almost overshadowed everything else in the movie. While it may not be historically accurate for 10th Century Tang Dynasty palace females to dress so scantily, director Zhang Yimou obviously wants to make a stylistic statement right from the opening scene.
His play with colours was apparent from Hero. Curse of the Golden Flowers presents a kaleidoscope in its grandeur palace setting and elaborate costumes. The final fighting scene lead by Prince Jai (Jay Chou playing Jay?) the prince with golden armored warriors trampling over chrysanthemum is nothing short of impressive.
Jay Chou had a difficult time playing Prince Jai, which required more complexity than a cool rider in Initial D. While emotional scenes with Gong Li drew some laughter from the audience, his final scene was noteworthy and articulation has improved.
Kudos goes to Chow Yun Fatt and Gong Li. Chow has improved on his accent tremendously (which was very strange in Crouching Tiger) and portrayed the Emperor with magnitude and hysterical outrage. Look out for the scene as the usually mild mannered Chow punishes his son with both rising temper and hair.
While the film obviously banks on Gong Li's bosoms, they shouldn't distract audience from her exceptional acting. It may be over-the-top at times, but she shows that nobody else can play this vengeful and solitary empress better than her. At this moment, she is the queen of the Chinese cinema.
The story of betrayal, illicit affairs, chilled relations and dysfunctional families may be run on the mill and overdone. Drawing parallels with The Banquet by Zhang Ziyi is inevitable. Both are about an obsessed empress who craves for a relationship with the prince (Interestingly, both well-known for playing gay roles) and demands for more power from the emperor.
Curse of the Golden Flower is not just soap drama but a period epic to impress with colours, opulence and sheer indulgence.
So many superlatives can be applied to CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER that
it's difficult to assess the movie without sounding totally biased and
over the top. Few films have achieved the level of sheer visual beauty
as this one with its interior shots of Chinese palace walls and columns
illuminated by glowing hues of gold, emerald, and ruby. Few also have
managed to weave the threads of so many tangled tortured relationships
into such a spellbinding masterpiece of tragedy.
The seductive visual beauty of this film's set and costumes makes a powerful contrast to the deadly schemes and betrayals that motivate the leading characters, members of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 BC). Just as the viewer finds him- or herself starting to feel sorry for one character--for example the Empress who is being tortured by her husband, or the Emperor who has been scandalously betrayed by his wife--it turns out that nobody is 100 percent innocent, not even the youngest of the royal family's three sons. If there's one great exception to the royal family's collective guilt, it would be the second son, Prince Jai, played with nobility and charisma by Chinese pop star Jay Chou. Having proved himself on the battlefield as a worthy contender for the throne, Prince Jai returns home only to find himself agonizingly torn between loyalty to his mother and father. The sacrifice he makes in the end turns out to be the most brutal tragedy of all.
Yun Fat Chow as the Emperor and Gong Li in the role of the Empress give incredible performances as a couple whose love has long died but who remain together for the sake of political convenience. Behind their beautiful clothes, lavish furnishings, and perfectly choreographed movements, the two calmly seek each others' destruction. Yun Fat Chow's and Li's performance are on par with that of the world's best Shakespearean actors and the story of CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER itself can be compared to a combination of "King Lear" and "Oedipus Rex." One begins to truly appreciate the challenges directors face when considering the titanic logistics director Zhang Yimou had to deal with in order to make this film. Imagine the precision of detail and control it took to go, as he does with the movie, from one scene of dozens of beautiful feudal-era women waking and preparing to work in the palace, to another later on of a thousand warriors in gold armor charging against another thousand warriors in metallic black. With its brilliant storyline, glorious production, and extraordinary performances, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER stands as a major triumph of modern film-making.
by Aberjhani, author of "The Bridge of Silver Wings"
First of all, this is a commercial movie of period drama with some sort
of martial arts in it. If you're looking for anything deeper, then it's
not for you although the movie is loosely based on a masterpiece of
play in China.
That being said, I think it's actually a nice movie.
Story: B The story line is nothing amazing but flows well although not devoid of a few confusions or loopholes. For the people who're not familiar with all the power struggle, backstabbing stories of Chinese royal families, some relationships and emotions may seem a bit too much. And it did actually get a bit overheated at certain point possibly for theatrical tensions. But overall, it made sense to me. My major complaint is that he could have cut out some of the side stories while allowing the major line to a fuller development.
Acting: B+ This movie focuses on Gong Li and she's a good actress. So, yes, she did a great job even though I wish it could have been toned down a bit. Chow Yun-fat is also good but his role is not as rich as hers. Liu Ye (crown prince) is adequate for his role and the character also has a limited range. Jay Zhou (the second son)is not quite up to par with the others (after all, he's not a professional actor). But he got better in the end.
Visuals: A- Actually, I wanted to give it a B+ but I awarded it a higher mark for being so daring. It does have tons of colors and shades in it. Most of time, they actually work out cool, at least for me. But I totally understand if someone finds it way over-the-top. I actually like the fact that ZYM used bright colors, only if he had used fewer kinds of them. Those fighting scenes didn't quite catch my attention not because they're no good. Actually they're proper and effective. But since I've seem so many martial arts movies, they did not bring any surprises to me
Overall, it's an entertaining movie with an understandable story and believable characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Curse of the Golden Flower" is probably the most lavish costume drama
in history, equaling or outdoing director Zhang Yimou's other
spectaculars, such as "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers." It's a sea
of gold, red, blue, silver, with Yee Chung Man's improbably luxurious
costumes. Armies clash, warriors fly, the imperial family
self-destructs, and the Shakespearean plotting, feuding, and killing
Also, in a likely surprise to cultural historians, "Curse" establishes 10th century China as the time and place for the perfection of the push-up bra. Although heaving bosoms are present throughout the movie, the opening scene is unequalled in its discreet Playboy fantasy of legions of young women getting ready for the arrival of the Emperor. It's spectacular and outlandish-funny at the same time, prompting simultaneous leering and laughing.
The flamboyant Later Tang Dynasty (923-936 AD) is the subject of Zhang's film, the royal family giving "dysfunctional" a bad name. The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) is a majestic, but thoroughly evil man, who oversees the systematic poisoning of the Empress (Gong Li, back with Zhang, the director who made her a star years ago before the two parted ways). The Empress, who eventually engineers the meltdown of the entire court, carries on an affair with her stepson, the Crown Prince (Liu Ye) who, in turn, sleeps with the beauteous Chan (Li Man), both blissfully - but not for long - unaware that they are closely related.
Prince Jai (Jay Chou, in a great performance) is the middle son, aspiring to become the Crown Prince and then the Emperor (not necessarily in that order); Prince Yu (Qin Junjie) is the youngest son, not well positioned for the succession, but keep your eyes on him - he may just have a surprise coming.
This is just a fraction of the what's going on in the Imperial Palace, but Zhang's genius as a director is proved once again. He is telling this complex, even convoluted story in such straightforward manner that it can be followed easily. Zhang, who is in New York right now, directing a Tan Dun world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera (having done Puccini's "Turandot" in Beijing), is the most operatic of film directors, with an epic sweep, flamboyance, gripping drama. (Speaking of the Zhang-Tan Dun partnership, which gave "Hero" a magnificent soundtrack, it's a shame that the composer for "Curse" is Shigeru Umebayashi, whose music is smaltzy and unoriginal.)
Zhang quotes an old Chinese saying, "Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside," and "Curse" has it all, although the gold-and-jade surface is so ostentatiously brilliant that all that portentous stuff within lacks depth and believability. At some of the most dramatic moments, there is laughter in the audience: the fun is too much to bother with what's supposed to be hot and heavy, the intended drama turns into melodrama. But, again, the fun is great and nonstop; bosoms may well heave merrily in the seats as well as they do, dramatically, on the screen.
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