Curse of the Golden Flower
passion and wicked court intrigue are portrayed with a sensuous
visual splendor in "Curse of the Golden Flower," the latest
period film of the great Chinese director Zhang Yimou. It's an
incredible film, among the strangest and most overwhelming that
Zhang has made. And it unfolds--during the Later Tang Dynasty
(923-936 AD), a time of corruption, dictatorship and
warfare--with a dark, stylized brilliance and an almost insane
excess that will bewilder a good part of the audience and
As we watch,
stunned, a bloody Jacobean tide of murder, adultery, incest and
rebellion pours through the chambers of a glorious palace, into
a courtyard covered with millions of golden cut chrysanthemums.
Through the corridors prowl a cast of royal schemers and
victims. That sinister ensemble includes an evil emperor (Chow
Yun Fat), his desperate wife (Gong Li), his three wildly
contrasting sons and heirs (Liu Ye, Jay Chou and Qin Junjie),
the troubled imperial doctor (Ni Dahong) and the doctor's bitter
wife (Chen Jin) and naive daughter (Li Man), both of whom have
secrets that could destroy an empire.
The cast is a
memorable ensemble. Among the emperor's brood, Jay Chou, who
plays the good, heroic middle son, Prince Jai, is a huge
Taiwanese-Chinese pop star who effortlessly holds the screen.
Liu and Qin, bookending him as the older and younger brothers,
are effectively softer and weaker, like John Cazale's Fredo in
"The Godfather." Chen Jin, as the doctor's wife, radiates a
bone-chilling fury and melancholy.
Those are lofty
cinematic comparisons, but, in some ways, this film is near that
aesthetic level. It's a work by cinematic geniuses that reveals
beauty and terror in a long-ago time with a virtuoso intensity.
You won't soon forget its mad, lovely sights and sounds.