Curse of the Golden Flower
Curse of the Golden Flower is the latest work from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and is the official Chinese entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It stars two great actors in Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li, is lavishly designed, beautifully shot and […]
Curse of the Golden Flower is the latest work from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and is the official Chinese entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It stars two great actors in Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li, is lavishly designed, beautifully shot and visually capitvating. There are breath-taking and original fight sequences, genuine emotional tension and some harrowing moments of human darkness.
But sadly, it is not a great film.
Without doubt, Curse of the Golden Flower is worth viewing, if for no other reason than the stunning sets, costumes, smaller fight sequences and general cinematography (the best moments are as cinematically compelling as any comporable film). However, the plot all too often it lurches into melodrama, or quite frankly, soap-opera territory. The story is tightly focussed, which is fine in principle, but with so few characters developed at any real depth, the film lacks the narrative scope to match the epic scale of the cinematography.
One can see where Zhang Yimou might have been going with this. The film is set after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, during a period when China lacked unity. Golden Flower presents us with a totally dysfunctional royal court whose internal battles manifest in a bloody,ruthless and failed revolution. Tremendous death and suffering canterlevers out from a small set of troubled relationships. It’s a thoroughly Shakesperean thesis – the unsettled family that plunges a nation into turmoil.
The problem is that we get no perspective, no sense of the greater ramifications of this game. By choosing, in effect, to stage the whole film in two locations (the royal court and the royal inn), Zhang Yimou gives us little sense of the sweep and impact of these events across the whole kingdom. For me, this robs the film of its potential power and impact. What happens within the family is tragic, but the greater tragedy is always when the quarrels and defects of the powerful supervene upon and decay the society at large. Great political drama should manage to give us a glimpse through the windows of the court, out into the lifes of the ordinary folk who must live with and make real the decisions of the elite. On this level, Curse of the Golden Flower fails to deliver.
What we are left with a film that is terse, sexy, unrelenting, savage and in the end a little unsatisfying. Curse of the Golden Flower is well worth seeing, it just isn’t the classic it could have been.
[tags] Curse of the Golden Flower [/tags]