The Empire strikes back
What a show! Absolute master of sophisticated martial arts after Hero and House of the Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou, director of Raise the Red Lantern, goes back a thousand years to the 10th century China, at the very heart of the Tang Dynasty. No smooth running for the imperial family, especially as the Empress (Gong Li) discovers that the Emperor (Chow Yun-fat) is poisoning her slowly according to the rules of a careful ritual. She goes out of her way to plot against him with the help of one of her three sons, while the youngest starts conspiring too. Torn as it is by the guilt of a past he tries to erase by murdering his former mistress, the Emperor confronts his wife through third party armies. A domestic drama in short, in fabulous surroundings and wonderful refined settings with such a luxury of details that each piece of fabric, each wall gilding seems to be made out of noble materials. Nothing fake in Curse of the golden Flower, especially not the costumes, the makeup and the hairdo.
Visually overwhelming, the film is not short of emotions – powerful, intense, harrowing but never ostentatious. Zhang Yimou does not go for extrovert melodrama or long tearful monologues. From passion to mad anger, he contains the emotions to better release them at the right moment in vibrant confrontations. The aerial raid of the Emperor’s troops is a movie reference – authentic Ninjas coming out of nowhere to slaughter whoever crosses their path. Towards the end, Curse of the Golden Flower goes even further into an outrageous battle scene reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. Mythological dimension guaranteed, in particular through digital special effects so brilliantly managed that they merge almost naturally with real camera work
As much directed as choreographed, of an unbelievable beauty and supported by actors fully involved in their character, Curse of the Golden Flower is already a classic masterpiece.
The Curse of the golden Flower DVD will be released on March 27th in the United States.