J.D. Lafrance
Curse of the Golden Flower DVD Review

Curse of the Golden Flower

April 16, 2007

Director: Zhang Yimou,
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye, Chen Jin, Ni Dahong, Li Man, Qin Junjie,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) is a Chinese historical drama about the deeply dysfunctional royal family of the Later Tang Dynasty in the year 922, which was during the turbulent Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. The film depicts a story filled with betrayals and bloody coup d’etat attempts.

The Imperial family is rotting from within. Empress Phoenix (Li) has been ill for 10 years, prone to fainting, sweating and the shakes. She takes medicine daily but it does not appear to be helping. On the contrary, it has been poisoned and is slowly driving her mad. Emperor Ping (Yun-Fat) returns with one of his sons, Prince Jai (Chou) and they are reunited with the rest of the family – his other two sons, Prince Yu (Junjie) and Wan (Ye). The Empress knows that the medicine is not helping but is resigned to her fate as she is bound by her husband’s word to take it, to do otherwise would be disobedient. The entire family is bound by strict rituals and customs because they are the Imperial family and they set an example for everyone else to follow.

The film features some truly exquisite, breathtaking set design as the Emperor’s palace is the pinnacle of opulence: ornate corridors dressed in vibrant colours of the rainbow with an intricately decorated throne room dominated by a stunning gold colour scheme. The film also pays close, meticulous detail to the costumes as it does to its sets. The Emperor is always glad in golden robes or, when traveling, in what looks like hand-crafted golden armour. The fight scenes are well-choreographed as one would expect from one of Zhang Yimou’s martial arts epics.

Although, Yimou did not cast his muse from past films – Zhang Ziyi – in her place are international movie stars Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li – ideal choices to play the Emperor and Empress of China. They acquit themselves admirably, portraying a couple who maintain an icy, professional relationship. However, the dysfunction that exists in this family and the complex relationships between its members results in a succession of betrayals. It’s not what is said that matter per se but what is not, conveyed between them via looks of anger, hurt and love. The story of Curse of the Golden Flower is ultimately a tragic one as secrets between the characters tear them apart from one another.

Special Features:

“Secrets Within” is a making of featurette. Yimou says that he wanted to do a story about a corrupt regime that existed beneath the glamour. Several aspects of the production are examined, including casting, set design and others. Yimou, Yun-Fat, Li and others talk about the film and their characters in this informative extra.

“Los Angeles Premiere” shows the stars of the film and Yimou walking the red carpet and being interviewed.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 79%



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