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.
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
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.
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