A Wonder to Behold — 5 years ago
From my movie review blog:
I have been lucky enough to rent Zhang Yimou’s newest big-budget epic, Curse of the Golden Flower.
The film tells the story of a dysfunctional royal family of China that would be reminiscent of The Lion in Winter had the royal family been less than dignified. Every character seems to have their own form of poise and respectability, even when they are caught in a moment of passion. The ambitious Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and his 2nd Queen Consort (Gong Li) are in the midst of a quiet power struggle that slowly becomes more visible as the plot rolls on. Caught in the middle are the three Prince’s, each who have their own emotional problem in connection with the crown. Though the film begins with a great deal of dialogue the pay off comes towards the end with an action-packed explosion of emotions, blood, and sheer color as the Empress attempts a coup on her husband.
This movie is big budget, big sets, big hair, big throngs of people, big everything. Like many Chinese epic films, the colors are perfectly cordinated and cinematography provides the audience with an interesting scope. Though not historically accurate, the costuming is amazing, coinciding with the scenes perfectly, making it obvious that each was meticulously created for its own aesthetic purpose. The opulence of the royal palace provides a lush, color-rich atmosphere in which dramatic events worthy of the theatre unfold.
The plot doesn’t fail to please. The complex relations between the characters, such as the Empress’ three year affair with her stepson and crown Prince Wan, create an enthralling tangle of emotions and drama that can really suck you in. Dramatic suspense builds not because of the impending events, but because of the relationships between the characters and the concealed truths that they hold. When are the Emperor and the Empress going to snap? Will the Emperor discover the affair between his wife and son? What exactly is the Empress hiding from everyone?
This film is beautiful, dramatic, and, best of all, doesn’t overstay its welcome as most of this big budget films do. Happy watching!