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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 7.14%
Just Average32.14%
Pretty Crappy: 25%
Sucks: 3.57%

3 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Curse of the Golden Flower
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Elegant, but to what end?"
3 stars

After 'Hero' and 'House of Flying Daggers,' Zhang Yimou’s blend of pomp and pulp is coming dangerously close to self-parody.

Curse of the Golden Flower is, as usual, ravishing to look at, but it seems to be put together solely so that Zhang can assemble hundreds of people in stately rows, all scurrying in unison to serve their Emperor and Empress. Scores of servants line up for no more exciting reason than to deliver herbal remedies to the anemic Empress (Gong Li), and her ritualistic regimen verges on comical: She swigs one potion, places the cup daintily on a platter, swigs another potion, does the same with that cup, then sips some mouthwash and swishes that around before spitting it into a bowl behind one upraised, gold-embroidered sleeve.

I almost wanted a whole movie made up entirely of such mundane yet solemnly inflated procedures — how many men does it take to attend to the toilet ablutions of the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat)? And probably Zhang would be only too happy to make such a film; it would be screamingly ceremonial, like a cross between late-period Kurosawa and late-period Kubrick. There is a story here, though, and sadly it neither equals the visuals nor emerges from them organically. Zhang has marshalled heavy troops to tell a very soap-opera tale.

The Emperor is slipping black fungus into the Empress’ remedies to poison her mind. She, in turn, is smitten with her own stepson, the Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), and has apparently seduced him into bed a time or two. The other two princes — the ambitious and ignored young Cheng (Qin Junjie) and the warrior Jie (Jay Chou) — are barely sketched in. Wan has eyes for the daughter of the Imperial Physician. The Empress finds out about the poisoned remedies and launches a counterplan. There are very many other revelations straight out of daytime drama. At one point, one of the princes whines “I hate my brother! I hate you all!” like some emo kid about to stomp off to his room and vent about his totally unfair dad in a MySpace post.

Chow Yun-Fat doesn’t ring any bells as an arrogant, duplicitous monarch — he looks stifled by his beard and robes. So, too, does poor Gong Li, condemned by the plot to sit around crocheting chrysanthemums and trembling. Only Jin Chen, as a shadowy branded woman who brings the Empress the unhappy news about her remedies, is allowed a compelling presence. Everyone else recedes into the design. And a fantastic design it is, yet even the colors don’t pop as much as you’d like — they’re muted, presumably because this is a more “serious” film.

'Curse of the Golden Flower' has a pictorial elegance, but that’s all it has. The imperial beauty is hollow, concealing incest and murder, and perhaps that was Zhang’s subversive aim. But it doesn’t do much for us. If Zhang Yimou wants to preside over gorgeous pageants surrounding beautiful people we don’t care much about, maybe he should direct the next Academy Awards show.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15300&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/14/07 19:46:16
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User Comments

11/11/11 Den Brill, Story a bit above average intelligence, so most won't like! 5 stars
9/06/09 blah too much cleavage, lack of drive, but looks very impressive 4 stars
5/24/08 Karrie Millheim alot of court intrigue, very colorful, Gong Li does a great job 5 stars
5/28/07 damalc Yimou, Shakespeare style 4 stars
4/30/07 noname retard it was stupid and retarted 1 stars
4/24/07 Twerpy Nicely made and looks clean/solid, but lacking story and drive 3 stars
2/05/07 William Goss A lavish and seemingly endless spectacle of cleavage, then carnage, but not very fun. 3 stars
1/24/07 KingNeutron Wait for the dvd - the emphasis isn't on martial arts. 2 stars
1/21/07 Heather Stunning visuals ... 5 stars
1/18/07 Aaron Smith Amazing color, spectacle. Story lacking. 3 stars
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  21-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2007



Directed by
  Zhang Yimou

Written by
  Zhang Yimou

  Chow Yun-Fat
  Gong Li
  Jay Chou
  Qin Junjie
  Man Li
  Ye Liu

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