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“Curse of the Golden Flower” Review – Curse of the Bouncing Boobs? December 29, 2006

Posted by drowmage in Curse of the Golden Flower, Movie Reviews.

Review :

Let us make this easy. Do not, at any point, try to compare this movie to the likes of Yi Mou’s well-known movies in this country, such as “Hero” or “House of Flying Daggers”. With descriptions such as “promises to be Zhang Yi Mou’s most action-packed and biggest production to date”, I had expected dazzling fighting sequences and a compelling storyline that would perhaps rival that famous “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee. Don’t hold your breathe though; “Curse of the Golden Flower” focuses more on being historically correct regarding the golden age in China during the later Tang Dynasty.

The movie is about the balance of power between the Emperor (Chow Yun Fatt), and his Empress (Gong Li), whom he took as his second wife when he was just a general in order to gain access to the throne. Their three sons are torn between family loyalty, that is, loyalty to the father figure and the Emperor; and loyalty to the stepmother and the Empress. Even more caught up in his emotions is the Crown Prince, who has been having an illicit affair with his stepmother while the Emperor was away. As the days progress, so does the plot to overthrow the Emperor and the final showdown begins at the hour of the Chong Yang Festival, when thousands of soldiers bearing the insignia of the golden chrysanthemum launches an attack on the palace.

I was extremely disappointed by Chow Yun Fatt’s performance as the Emperor of China. He didn’t seem to be very intimidating as the Emperor, even though the dialogue he was given, if delivered properly, would have sent chills down a person’s spine. The words were meant to reflect a cold-hearted Emperor who was so embedded in his cultural principles of family piety that he felt nothing for his Empress, so much so that he was willing to slowly poison her. The much-look-forward-to scene, where the Emperor is striking down his son with his golden belt, to show the cold heartedness of a great ruler who is a father figure, is cut out of the movie – leaving one feeling that they may have just chopped out the best scene ever. One for Censorship.

Gong Li has had amazing roles before, and as usual shines in her portrayal of the Empress. The Empress is caught in the political intricacies of the palace and a woman’s suppressed role in China during that era. At every hour of the day (a large hour, or shichen, according to the Chinese time measurement, is equivalent to our two-hour period, and was labelled according to the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac), she is brought a drink of strong liquid, prescribed by the Emperor which is meant to help her with her illness. However, she is fully aware that it is the drink itself which is the cause of the illness which grips her constantly. With this, her performance shines as she portrays the regal woman who, bound by tradition and the Emperor’s terrifying edict, cannot speak out against the plot to kill her and struggles with each cup of poison which she has to drink.

Jay Chou, as Prince Jai, seemed wooden at first in “Curse”, but as the movie progresses, so does his acting. There also exists a chemistry of sorts between his character and the Empress which transcends into the undying loyalty up until the end when he leads the coup d’etat against his father.

The movie is not without its plot twists and surprise moments, especially when the birth mother of the Emperor’s sons are revealed, and everything begins to unravel at the night of the Chong Yang Festival.

Instead of focusing so much on the surrounding architecture and interior design of the palace, Yi Mou should have also shown us the results of this opulence; the suffering folk and run-down villages who had to pay taxes for the royal family to live so grandly during China’s ‘golden age’. Perhaps then the message of the film might have been clearer; that the royal family, for all their external wealth, is no better in character than their farmers.

By the way, in the entire movie, you’ll notice that all the women have amazingly bouncy boobs, accentuated by the tight cloth wound around their chest to push them up and create an amazing cleavage. It’s hard to take note of the acting when Gong Li’s chest looks like it’s about to pop out.

The scene which had a huge impact symbolically, was when the palace square, littered with thousands of dead soldiers and filled with crushed chrysanthemum petals, were all swept away and replaced with new flowers by hundreds of loyal palace servants – as if nothing had ever happened. A powerful scene requiring no words, it reflects the sentiment of the current era; what we do know of history, is what the victor, and not the vanquished, puts in writing.

It’s a beautifully crafted movie, visually appealing, and for the historians, something to feast your eyes on as China’s history is brought to life. But as the minutes pass, you come to realize that there isn’t much substance to the story. As the movie tagline quotes an old Chinese saying, “Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside,” the movie’s beautiful exterior seems to hide the dull tarnish of the supposed action-packed plot.

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