Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (2006) Poster

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Great dramatic acting within stunning visual jewel box
sm2228114 January 2007
Warning: 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.
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Two thumbs up!!
torea111117 December 2006
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.
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I saw this AMAZING film tonight!
anniefox27 November 2006
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.
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Fascinating movie-opera of rotting decadence
thepts13 January 2007
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.
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Intense, moving drama
yacro24 December 2006
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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Just so beautiful to even look at...
petep26 December 2006
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.
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Epic imperial during China's Tang dynasty spectacular and colorfully directed by Yimou Zhang
ma-cortes2 September 2012
10th Century , 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 . 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 . The control of emperor over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself . For many years, the Empress and Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson, have had an illicit liaison and unspeakable secrets are hidden within the Forbidden City. 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. 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, the emperor relocates the medic's family from the Palace to a remote area . While they are en route, mysterious assassins attack them. Chan and her mother, Jiang Shi (Chen Jin) are forced back to the palace. At the night, thousands of soldiers are trampled as blood spills across the Imperial Palace in a spectacular final battle .

This luxurious epic film was marvelously filmed with impressive production design , colorful cinematography and breathtaking scenes . The picture is full of tumultuous sequences with dark surprises , thrills , fierce combats and groundbreaking battles . Amid the glamour and grandeur of the scenarios is developed a familiar intrigue in Shakespeare's King Lear style , including betrayal , incest , crime and exploring the dark side of Chinese empire . Impressive and rousing fights with thousands of golden armored warriors reenacted by lots of extras . Overwhelming attack on the fortress where is relocated the doctor's family , being subsequently copied in ¨Kung Fu Panda¨ . Wonderfully photographed especially when against a moonlit night, thousands of chrysanthemum blossoms are trampled as blood spills across the Imperial Palace. The motion picture was glamorously directed by Yimou Zhang who often works with the actress Li Gong and as well as most of his films , it begins with the title displayed in Chinese calligraphy style. Zhang forms part of China's Fifth Generation of filmmakers, who began making films after the Cultural Revolution , others from this group include Chen Kaige and Jinzhan Zhang . He is an expert on Chinese epics such as ¨Shanghai Triad¨ , ¨Hero¨ ,¨House of Flying Daggers¨ , ¨The flowers of war¨ and of course the Oscarized and successful ¨Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon¨ . Rating : Better than average . Worthwhile watching .
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Old time family drama in a stunning, extravagant setting
BanBan17 December 2006
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.
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A Golden Victory for an Extraordinary Film
Author-Poet Aberjhani20 January 2008
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"
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Cursed but Delightful
janos45121 December 2006
Warning: 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 never stops.

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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A decent movie if you got your expectation right
sykt99200025 December 2006
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.
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The Masterpiece of 2006
William Yu24 December 2006
Zhang Yimou's latest film will not be liked by everyone. Many will claim that this is another copy of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". That is a shame because this movie is a true masterpiece equaling "Hero", "Red Sorghum" and "Raise the Red Lantern". Although there are martial arts sequences, this is not a martial arts film at its heart. Rather, it is a historical grand opera epic. In addition to great sight and sound, "Curse of the Golden Flower" boasts great performances by Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li and Liu Ye. Even, Jay Chou is surprisingly good. The movie works in so many levels and has a frantic pace that is unlike anything out there at this time. It is somewhat melodramatic, but also grandly tragic. This is what grand opera is all about. This is cinema at its best. This film will not break any box office record (in the US anyway). This film will not win many critics awards or Oscars. However, in years to come, this will be remembered as the Masterpiece of 2006.
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Curse of the Golden Flower — Intrigue and over-scaled fighting
Avid Climber27 November 2012
Curse of the Golden Flower's intrigue is very interesting and offer a complex story. The over- opulence is even easy to disregard, until the fighting begins. It's like applying fine white lace to a garment made of coarse unbleached wool. It's messy. All the refinements get lost very quickly.

The visuals are very poignant, the acting is good for the most part, and the scenario quite enjoyable. Had they cut out all the fighting, it would have made a pretty good movie. I would definitively enjoyed it more.

However, if you're a fan of Asian style wire fighting, impossible odds, beyond measure heroes in action, then you'll have no problem enjoying this fine film. If not, then patiently sit through the battles and wait for the conclusion for closure.
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A 1950s Camp Fest
JackCerf15 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The best way to visualize this campy historical spectacle is to imagine Douglas Sirk and Sam Peckinpah collaborating on a 1950s decadent Roman Empire movie starring Clark Gable as the Emperor and Joan Crawford as the Empress.

The story is set at the imperial court in fictitious 10th century China. The Emperor (Chow Yun-fat in a goatee, looking unnervingly like Charlie Chan), is the picture of Confucian rectitude and virtue. It's only a picture; with the aid of the Imperial Doctor, he is poisoning the Empress with a slow poison that will drive her crazy. The Empress (an imperious Gong Li) suspects that something is going on; she is planning a coup d'etat for the night of the Chrysanthemum Festival. As part of her plan, she is carrying on an affair with the Crown Prince, who is the Emperor's son by his deceased first wife. The Crown Prince is also carrying on an affair with the daughter of the Imperial Doctor; he doesn't know that she is personally in charge of slipping the poisoned ingredient into the Empress's prescription. Despite his active love life, the Crown Prince is a self-doubting dweeb who has never left the Imperial Palace. Meanwhile, Second Brother, who is the embodiment of martial virtue and filial piety, has just come home after a three year hitch fighting the barbarians on the frontier. He honors his father, loves his mother, thinks he's a better man than his half brother, and wouldn't mind being Emperor one day. Third Brother, still in his mid-teens, is shy and doesn't say a lot, but he has has mastered Yogi Berra's principle that you can observe a lot by watching. He has his own ideas and his own ambitions. Meanwhile, the Emperor is beginning to think that the Imperial Doctor and his daughter Know Too Much, and he personally knows a good deal more than he's let on. Then the First Mrs. Emperor turns up alive, revealing secrets that upset a lot of apple carts.

The sets and the clothes make the court of Louis XIV at Versailles look like a trailer park, and I, for one, had never realized that 10th century China had mastered the tavern wench style push-up bra a thousand years before Victoria's Secret. We get opulent palace interiors, gorgeous costumes, hordes of groveling male and female servants, elaborate rituals, midnight gallops, shocking revelations, stunning betrayals, stabs in the back, ninja assassins, acrobatic swordplay, both individual and en masse, and blood splattered everywhere. It's all done in the gaudiest, most saturated color imaginable, with a particular emphasis on gold and crimson. At the end, there is one person left standing. The servants come out, sweep up the dead bodies, sluice away the blood and put out fresh flowers. The Chrysanthemum Festival goes off with barely a hitch.

If there is a moral, it is that appearances must and will be preserved at all costs. It's all empty calories, like cotton candy, but if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.
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Shakespeare with ninjas
petra_ste12 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Shakespearian and flawed, moving and irritating, talky and with an impossibly high body count, Hamlet meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower is often interesting, but uneven to say the least.

Ancient China: the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) is slowly poisoning his wife (Gong Li), who has a relationship with her stepson Wan (Ye Liu), heir to the throne. The other two sons are Jai (Jay Chou) and Yu (Junjie Qin). Jai decides to help his mother overthrow the Emperor, while Wan takes his father's side.

There are moments of sheer beauty in the Curse of the Golden Flower, but also phoney and contrived scenes. Some set-pieces are great - ninjas assaulting a house in a misty valley, a battle with golden and silver armours clashing - but other moments look uncomfortably computer-generated. The film does not achieve the visual magnificence of Yimou's Hero.

Every frame is saturated with deep colours, creating an oppressive atmosphere inside the maze-like palace, with the always-repeating ritual of the "cure" with which the Emperor poisons his wife.

Gorgeous Gong Li plays the Empress and gives a powerful performance as a woman driven by strong feelings. Also excellent is the always charismatic Chow Yun-Fat as the Emperor, a cruel tyrant who is genuinely fond of his sons. Jay Chou and Ye Liu are fine as the two princes faced with moral dilemmas.

Hero is one of the best-looking movies ever made, but I found it morally reprehensible. Here the message is more ambiguous, with Yimou trying to show the brutality and solitude of power in this Shakespearian tragedy set in Ancient China.

The result falls somewhere between "brilliant but flawed" and "interesting failure", worth watching for some compelling moments and strong performances.

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Beautiful movie with absolutely no soul
Kryzak31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I went into the last movie I'm watching of 2006 with very low expectations after reading some reviews, and I must say I was still kind of disappointed coming out of it. I don't know what Zhang Yimou is doing, but his movies have been on a steady decline since the great "Hero". This movie, like "House of Flying Daggers", is BEAUTIFULLY made, but lacks substance.

Let's talk about the cinematography first. The colors, details, patterns, and the views of the palace were so expertly filmed that I was in awe the first 30 minutes of the movie. Zhang continues his perfect track record in making spectacular visual epics in this movie. The acting was also very good, anchored by experienced great actors like Chou Yun-Fat and Gong Li. Even with my average score, if you are the type of movie goer that appreciates great visual feats in movies, I would recommend you check this movie out.

Now for the disappointing bits. There wasn't too much plot involved other than your standard double-crossing/spy-vs-spy story. It reached the point of absurdity when new characters were introduced an hour into the movie to add a new plot twist in the already complicated web of intrigue. The entire process felt very heavy handed and damaged the impact of the tragedies in the movie. The battle scenes were very fake (you can easily tell it was CGI) and the ending was horrendous. It just left the entire audience hanging, and did not tie up the most important plot line of the movie. It really left a bad taste in my mouth after watching the movie.

Anyway, I hope Zhang's next movie focuses more on the plot (like Hero) and less on the spectacles. Otherwise, his good name as a director will probably go down the drain.
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Zhang Yimou's zillion-yuan test for the Beijing Olympics
debblyst2 June 2007
"Curse of the Golden Flower" can be best described as an apotheosis of overwrought kitsch, hyper-saturated colors and military choreography. Everything in it is big, lavish, excessive, but staged in a clockwork style; every shot spells *money* and "extravaganza", but under stiff control. If you -- like me -- once marveled at Zhang Yimou's refined artistry in masterpieces like "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern", you'll be baffled by "Curse": it's hardly to believe they were directed by the same man. After "Hero" and "Flying Daggers", Zhang completes with "Curse" his exhibitionist, rococo trilogy, where the "message" (i.e. the connections between power and corruption) gets crushed under formalist grandeur, militarist fascination and commercial targets.

The colors in "Curse" belong to a sort of Phosphorescent Lollipopland, with blazing goldens, sanguine scarlets, shocking purples and pinks; it feels like a color-blind exam. The lighting is so overdone it's flat; the sets so overwrought and overcrowded that Hollywood Bible epics of the 1950s look minimalistic by comparison. The costumes, though masterfully executed, are so flamboyantly flashy they upstage the actors. Oh, and as many reviewers pointed out, there are those anachronistic (?) popping boobs...very distracting:)

The CGI work is underachieved; the music is monotonous and incongruously Westernish. The action scenes are lukewarm at best: Zhang is a flat, unexciting fight director -- he doesn't know how to edit them. The plot is even more convoluted than the sets, while the dialog alternates between risible clichés and hermetic symbolisms. The cast is told to over-act: Chow Yun Fat sulks, groans, squints his BLUE (!) contact lensed-eyes, and combs his goatee with a cool gadget-ring. Gong Li suffers, trembles, cries, suffers, trembles, cries, drinks endless cups of poisoned tea and feels sick all the time (is it the stifling wonder-bra or the smell of the script?). Song pop-star Jay Chou has an interesting face, but is betrayed by the director, who lingers on his clueless "reaction" shots, revealing Chou's lack of proper acting training. The closing credits song (which Chou produced, wrote and sang) just proves that bad pop songs exist everywhere.

What IS remarkable about "Curse" is the flabbergasting amount of money spent to tell what is, after all, a huis clos story: all that matters in the plot takes place indoors -- the CGI, the battles, the armies, the ninjas, the fights are pretty much there to satisfy action junkies, justify the stratospheric budget and crush the audience with a paraphernalia of excesses.

Also remarkable, of course, is Zhang's taste for unimaginative, clockwork crowd choreography: thousands of real and virtual extras flow by in rigid geometric patterns with a maniac precision that can only be described as military-inspired. No wonder Zhang has been appointed to stage the opening ceremony at the next Beijing's Olympics: "Curse" serves as his zillion-yuan test for the job. All of this made me think of how Zhang's substantial, ground-breaking past work has turned into vacuous formalism and establishment-friendly status. And I recalled his notorious megalomania and authoritarianism (check the documentary "The Turandot Project" by Alan Miller) and his quote saying "My films are an excellent channel for promoting China's culture"."Curse" is a gigantic soufflé, an exhausting mammoth extravaganza made by a self-obsessed, control-freak artist who -- though he states in interviews his "aversion to politics" -- seems to feed on, cherish and serve the very status quo he thinks he transcends.
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absolutely ridiculous
ayu_rocks21 December 2006
Zhang Yimou's third journey into martial arts territory shows an honest attempt to improve the story side, but it's still an over-the-top, over-produced mess which is hampered by zero character development, laughably bad histrionics, and complete reliance on spectacle.

Adapted from "Thunderstorm" by Cao Yu (transplanted into the Tang Dynasty rather than 1930s China), as well as borrowing liberally from Shakespeare, Yimou drops us right into the middle of a major family feud without any setup or backstory. The term "family feud" is really an understatement as this family is totally screwed up. Rather than go into detail and give away any potential spoilers, let's just say that the emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and empress (Gong Li) don't get along, to put it mildly. What follows is a series of affairs, incestuous relationships, murder, intrigue, double crossings, triple crossing, and quadruple crossings. Sounds good? Not on your life. Things don't develop naturally because Yimou robbed us of real characters. As such, these "shocking revelations" come at us like a series of knuckle balls, bashing us in the face not because they're truly shocking or even all that surprising, but because they're hammed up in grand soap-operatic fashion. It's sure to elicit more than a few chuckles and boisterous fits of laughter as characters tremble, cry, scream, and then tremble some more as these Perry Mason-esquire revelations come to light.

Gong Li, a talented actress in every sense of the word, is reduced to playing second fiddle to her impressive cleavage. She's given little room to breathe and no room to act or develop her character beyond that of another tragic victim. Chow Yun-Fat, also making his long-awaited return to Chinese cinema, is sorely misused as he spends most of the film sitting down looking menacing, that is until he whips off his belt to deliver some unintentionally funny discipline. The visuals, impressive indeed, ultimately prove too garish and distracting in a film that features the most over-the-top performances in years.

Cao Yu's original work was notable in part because of the well drawn characters and heartbreaking interactions, but Yimou (again) seems more concerned with that elusive Oscar rather than actually telling a compelling story with engaging characters. Strangely enough, the fundamental theme behind the film, that what is golden on the outside is rotten within, seems to also describe not only this waste of celluloid, but other lame attempts by Feng Xiaogang (The Banquet) and Chen Kaige (The Promise) to duplicate the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which I don't even think is a very good film). All of these hack directors need to STOP making films, because they have clearly forgotten how.
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Long tedious period drama with a few frantic action scenes thrown in to get the action fans in to the cinema
massbits2 January 2007
Set during the Tang dynasty, an evil king (Chow Yun Fat) hides his past from the rest of his family, unfortunate for his son as he has secretly fallen in love with his sister who works as the lady in waiting for the empress (Gong Li) who's loathing of the king (who is trying to poison her with medicine)results in an attempted coup with 10,000 of her golden flower troops descending on the palace, but to no avail after a massive cgi enhanced battle the status quo is returned to the palace. overlong, over hyped,over acted, vulgar and pretentious, this is probably Zhang yi mao's worst work yet, the action scenes by veteran Tony Ching Siu Tung were nothing great and were so few and far between it's hardly worth talking about.not recommended for hung fu ,wu xia fans avoid.
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Brilliant Storytelling
Night4881 January 2007
Curse of the Golden Flower reunites Zhang Yimou and Gong Li for the first time in eleven years. Boy, was I excited, but then, this movie started to receive negative reviews. I went to see this movie myself and I was blown away..

This movie has been described as a martial arts epic. It is not. It's simply a story about a dysfunctional imperial family, nothing more. I think one of the primary reasons why people thought this was disappointing is because they expected A LOT of action. The trailers are a bit misleading, because there really isn't all that much action in this movie. Zhang Yimou is a master at storytelling, and he does it exceptionally well in this film.

Acting. Jay Chou's performance disgusts me. This boy needs acting school, and how he got cast in Curse, I do not know. Not only was his performance bad, but his appearance was ridiculous. The audience in my theater laughed when Chou made his first appearance. The acting in this movie was overall good excluding Jay Chou. Gong Li delivered an amazing performance, as always, as well as Chow Yun-Fat, Liu Ye, and Li Man.

Action. Like I have stated earlier, there isn't much action in this film and with the very little action that exists, it wasn't really all that impressive.

Overall, I give this movie a 9/10. One star deducted because of the lousy action and Jay Chou's performance. Ignore the action in this movie and you will not be disappointed.
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Red Lanterns, the return
GyatsoLa29 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I went to see this movie with a slightly heavy heart. I have been a huge fan of Zhang Yimou since seeing Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern some years ago. But while i really enjoyed 'Flying Daggers' as pure entertainment, i thought 'Hero' was little more than a beautiful propaganda piece for the government of China. Based on reading some reviews of 'Curse', i was beginning to think that he was the new Leni Riefenstahl.

But how wrong I was - I'm very surprised that all the critics who lined up to explain to western audiences the anti-government metaphors of his earlier movies have reviewed this as a pure soap opera, a glorified 'Dynasty'. But they seem to forget that the exact same could be said of his earlier masterpieces such as Red Lantern. Those movies too were sometimes stagy and fully of internal dramatic inconsistencies that didn't stand up to too much analysis. But this movie is every much a devastating critique of centralized power as any of his earlier movies. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Chinese history and politics knows that the current government of China is very much a continuum of earlier dynasties, with Party Officials performing the same roles as the old Confucian bureaucrats. This movie is a straightforward satire of such centralized power with clear modern parallels. The clearing up of the aftermath of the 'coup' and the similarities with what happened after Tiananmen Square in 1989 is all too obvious.

Anyway, having gotten that off my chest, suffice to say this is a gloriously over the top epic with staggering settings and set pieces, and of course it has Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li in the same movie, which should be enough pure pleasure for anyone.

I had my strong doubts up to this, but I think in years to come critics will see this as one of a series of truly masterful movies from Zhang Yimou that will collectively consist of a coherent and brilliant artistic and political statement, not to mention pure kick ass cinematic pleasure.
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The best Zhang Yimou's film in past 10 years!!!
neo_luo14 December 2006
I saw this film yesterday at its premiere festival on Dec 14 2006 and I'm so excited for it, I believe it's the best Zhang Yimou's film in past 10 years!

The film's title gives a clear hint at the chosen color palette. Gold is the tone throughout the picture. The armor is a triumph in costume design. The suits and helmets made for Jay Chou, who plays the prince, are gold-plated. Chrysanthemum patterns and ornaments can be seen throughout the film, in the furnishings and costumes - this golden flower is a symbol of rebellion in the film.

The film is roughly adapted from "Thunderstorm" - the best drama of China writer Cao Yu but the story is set in a period after Tang Dynasty - about 1000 years ago. Gong Li(Empress) and Chou Yun-fat(Emperor) provided their excellent performance in the film, and also I love Jay Chou (the Prince Jie) in this film.

Comparing with other Zhang Yimou's films such as "Hero", "House of Flying Daggers", we can see the breakthrough from this film: the picture and the photography are still perfect, but this time, the film tells us an excellent story (of course part of contributions are from drama "Thunderstorm"). And the other reason for me to vote 10 point to this film is the performance from the cast – Chou Yun-fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou & Liu Ye – this group is nearly the strongest player team in China.

I loved that it surprised me in how it ended, an ending that moved me to tears when Jay Chou began to sing the theme song "Golden Flowerbed" . This is a film I would love to own and watch again and again.
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Thwarted Invasion of Annie's Army
tedg27 April 2007
Chinese filmmakers have a double curse. They have this tradition where individuals only matter in context, so when there is a spat between a man and his wife, it can only be illustrated in large sweeps of society. This is compounded by the ability to marshal (real, human) extras and extravagant sets on a scale unmatchable anywhere else.

I liked this filmmaker's earlier projects. "To Live" really was able to show the inside of a man by mapping it to lurches and sweeps in the world around him. "Daggers" was at least a masterpiece of ballet. And "Hero," probably my favorite, was the most cinematic, expressing real human qualities in luxurious cinematic terms. Who can forget the spatial existence of discovered deceit in the flickering flames in front of the throne?

This is a wholly different formula in how the internals of a family sweep into the environment. The setup is an extraordinary web of relationships between two families. Some commentors think this is drawn from soap opera, but I think they have a common ancestor instead. This is Greek, and though on daytime TeeVee you will get similar relationship complexities, they will have their tethers to the cosmos broken. They will be single souls adrift in the world.

These are souls that command the world, apparently. It could have worked.

Why it didn't I think is because the filmmaker decided to root himself in the magisterial. It probably was influenced by the fact that he is a former lover of the female star and there are some reflections between that situation and what we see. Its "Annie Hall" with flying ninjas instead of lobsters. Breasts instead of the swirling of engagement. Narrative mistrust where Woody had open exploration and experimentation. Diane and Woody were in a place, a city that colored them. These characters here ARE the city.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Enough hallway scenes to last a lifetime
hamstermofo31 August 2013
The movie is slow and boring. Every other scene is filmed in a hallway. There didn't seem to be a clear point to the movie. The outlandishly bright colors everywhere started to get annoying. I don't know why certain things were happening, as the director didn't think anyone needed certain formation. Perhaps if this movie had a different director it would have been decent. I heard the book was decent. Watch this movie only if there's nothing else to watch. How am I supposed to get 10 lines out of this? I stated my points about the movie. How am I supposed to get 10 lines out of this? I stated my points about the movie. How am I supposed to get 10 lines out of this? I stated my points about the movie.
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Great Drama set in ancient China
yannigk24 December 2006
I was very negative about going to yet another Chinese big production kungfu action movie set in ancient China, but this film turns out to be a surprise! I went my classmates, all of them male, and they ended up not liking it because there were too much talking and not enough action.

I, on the other hand, thought that the drama was well-written and well-acted. Some parts were exaggerated (ie. the fight scenes, and the announcement of time of day every 10 mins..) But overall I enjoyed the interactions between characters in the film. It was also interesting for me to see how the characters end up doing what they do, and seeing the story finishes in the way that it does.

It IS a depressing film, though. Plus, if you're looking for lots of action, you'll be disappointed. The fight scenes only happens at the later half of the movie.

But if you're up for good drama, then go watch. Other than Jay Chow's so-so performance, I thought all the acting were very well done.

It's definitely much better than Hero and Flying Daggers (in terms of story and structure). I haven't seen the Banquet so I can't comment on that.
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