This is the second movie I will have reviewed on this website by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou [the first being here]. The definte latter of the two, Curse of the Golden Flower is set in 10th century China, the Emperor’s first born son, Wan, is sleeping with his step mother, the Empress, and his half sister. Seeking revenge on his wife, the Emperor begins poisoning the Empress’ daily medicine in small doses. When the Empress receives word of this betrayal, she enlists the help of her royal guard-leading son to put an end to the Emperor. When all is revealed at the Chrysanthemum Festival, all hell breaks loose and the audience is treated to some much needed spectacle.
To be honest, the story is quite complicated — there’s so much treachery, incest, and deceit that it can be hard to keep track of it all. However, if you stick with the characters, a commanding tale emerges, making the third act particularly riveting. The “rot and decay” of the royal house is already in full swing as the story begins but, as we learn about the motives, agendas and secrets that dominate the lives of its characters, drama gives way to melodrama as truths rise to the surface and the family implodes in tragedy. It may sound as if I’m criticising this film but, believe me, I’m not. Despite the occasionally outlandish qualities of every aspect of the film, as I’ve already said, it works.
Watching Curse of the Golden Flower, you know right of the bat exactly where the films budget has gone; from the palace’s exterior, the biggest set ever built, to the lush interiors and simply astounding costumes, no expense has been spared.
If you go in expecting a blood bath filled martial arts epic, you will be dissappointed. Eventually, there are some exciting martial arts scenes to keep these people mildly happy, but the story remains the first priority. The sheer amount of plotting and characterization is likely to turn off a few folks while engaging an entirely different audience. This review is for the Blu-ray edition of the movie and the film’s transfer is packed with vibrant colors and sharp fine object detail, while leaving the Skintones natural. However the black areas are a bit deep and the soundtrack leaves a lot left to be desired. All in all, I can’t do any better or worse then to suggest this film to you. Recommended.