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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Chow Yun-Fat
Gong Li
Jay Chou.
Directors
Yimou Zhang.
Screenwriters
Yimou Zhang.
Running Time
114 minutes

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Curse Of The Golden Flower
House Of Dying Naggers


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Plot
China, AD928. A royal family reunion cooks up the usual array of betrayals, poisonings, back-stabbings, front-stabbings and wholesale carnage of loyal warriors. It’s the Festival Of The Chrysanthemum!


Review
Curse Of The Golden Flower
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The conclusion to Zhang Yimou’s wushu trilogy — following in the tiptoes of those luxuriant fusions of violent Chinese mythology and Mardi Gras fabulousness, Hero and House Of Flying Daggers — commences with the ordered bustle of a new day at the royal palace within a palace within a palace. The place is a giant, boudoir-styled metaphor for lurid and hidden secrets.
 
     Here thousands of fetching female courtiers are strapped into corsets, bottlenecking their waists and forklifting their cleavages like medieval Wonderbras, all for the benefit of His Royal Cruelness, Emperor Chow Yun-Fat. His wife, Her Royal Schemingness Empress Gong Li, who manages the remarkable knack of crocheting golden flowers wearing three-inch false nails, spends much of the time competing with the opulence of her own chest. For his last blast (so he says) of shimmering martial artistry, Zhang boldly accompanies the blurs of swordplay and storms of emotion with the bosomy exuberance of the Benny Hill Show. Little wonder Curse Of The Golden Flower is so unsteady on its feet.
 
Dripping in melodrama, this tale of the conniving of one mother and three sons to usurp the throne of their brutal patriarch (a past-master in conniving) is delivered at a feverish pitch, its sights set on a Shakespearean delirium of familial dysfunctions. Gone is the heartbroken poetry of Hero for the billowing nonsense of farce.
Then what is a waspish queen to do, rightly suspicious she’s being poisoned by her husband with flecks of a peculiar black mushroom sure to bring on gradual dementia? Amid the plot-drenched, perspiration-soaked first hour, who can say if the potion hasn’t taken effect? There’s a graveyard of skeletons about to come rattling out of the family closet (timorous princes should especially beware which lovely servant girl they choose to unwrap); a Dynasty of sexual intrigue and death-sliding ninjas, designed within an inch of its life.
 
There is just no stopping Zhang and his production designer Huo Tingxiao. Every frame comes closer to the visual spew of a Woolies’ pick ’n’ mix counter than the plushest palatial galleries history can throw up. Engulfed by light and colour, you don’t know whether to watch scenes or lick them. And don’t get us started on the costumes…
 
This chromatic trilogy has been read as Zhang’s reaction to growing up in Mao’s grey-cast Communist China, the chance to finally cut loose, but he may have lost control. Even when all the heated doings of the inner sanctums yield to the clang of battle, the battalions of computer-assisted warriors line up like terracotta statues co-ordinated to mummy/daddy factions of gold and silver, in a courtyard stuffed with potted chrysanthemums. It’s extraordinary, but overwhelmingly so. Not to forget the thousand-strong clean-up crew perched behind the scenes, mops and fresh flowers at the ready. History is its own poison: dynasties can be swept aside as swiftly as fallen petals.
 
Thank whichever heavens, then, for Gong Li, Zhang’s erstwhile muse, former paramour and leading lady for his groundbreaking films: Ju Dou, Raise The Red Lantern, et al. It is her return to his side that keeps the film from pitching face-first into self-parody. Even playing a combination of Lady Macbeth and Joan Crawford she grounds the giddy storyline with real tragedy, a woman clinging on to her sanity. It’s a wonderfully provocative performance, often yoked to headdresses that would give Queen Amidala the eebies.
 
Sensibly, perhaps, Chow Yun-Fat plays it cool. With a self-satisfied glint, he’s all gleeful double-takes and smug chin-stroking, rightly suggesting he is the daddy. Even by the end, as secrets uncoil with the kind of histrionics reserved for Justin Timberlake gigs, he’s barely let his hair down. Indeed, as a rule of thumb for those venturing inside such a heady, unfettered experience, you can judge any character’s mental wellbeing by the unravelment of their locks. It’s one hell of a bad-hair day.


Verdict
Imagine The Lion In Winter set at a Kylie gig. You can have too much of a good thing, but it is a good thing.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Curse Of The Golden Flower
Empire Star Rating

Curse of the Golden Flower Review

Melodrama, swordplay, and CG armies, fans of martial arts epic will get what they bargain for, though the baroque art direction can be both mesmerizing and exhaustively excessive. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 21:54, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post


Could have been better...

Often its melodrama causes this to be a laughably daft, Curse of the Golden Flower provides strange entertainment as Zhang Yimou ditches artistic simplicity for an attempt at a complex plot. Those expecting nice fight scenes will be disapointed as they are few and far between yet some commendable acting from Yun-Fat and Li Gong and some glossy and expensive sets make this fairly watchable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 20:03, 13 September 2011 | Report This Post


if you see it as a tragedy and not as a martial arts film, this is a very good film, ok not the visual feast that was Hero or the tangled love story that was house of flying daggers. But still the film is dripping with dark secrets and bold decedence. The ending was very effective too ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ivanahump at 09:02, 15 December 2009 | Report This Post


if you see it as a tragedy and not as a martial arts film, this is a very good film, ok not the visual feast that was Hero or the tangled love story that was house of flying daggers. But still the film is dripping with dark secrets and bold decedence. The ending was very effective too ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ivanahump at 09:02, 15 December 2009 | Report This Post


More action sequences and this could have been the greatest of the three films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Willetts at 22:19, 08 September 2008 | Report This Post


UNDERRATED

ok it maybe the weakest of the 3 but not by a lot. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 22:46, 11 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

*** SPOILERS ***   I thought this film was fantastic! Yeah it was a bit melodramatic but I loved the strange plot, the revelations and especially Gong Li's acting who made it all believable.   As for the look of it - has there ever been a more colourful movie? The over the top ridiculous opulence of the whole thing made me laugh at times, but bloody hell talk about eye candy - and where else are you going to see hundreds of golden clad warriors steaming br... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 12:22, 31 March 2008 | Report This Post


I would have given four stars, as yes the colour in the movie makes it a glazing specticle to veiw on HD, and the acting is superb, I think Gong Li's performance was overated, but not bad, and Chow Yun Fat is as reliable as ever, oozing cool and mysteriousnes out of himself in every scene, and the fight scene at the end is breathtaking stuff, however through most of the movie the audeince is confined to the inner walls of the palace, and at times the film struggles to keep its excitement, and fo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dgribble at 15:59, 26 March 2008 | Report This Post


I would have given four stars, as yes the colour in the movie makes it a glazing specticle to veiw on HD, and the acting is superb, I think Gong Li's performance was overated, but not bad, and Chow Yun Fat is as reliable as ever, oozing cool and mysteriousnes out of himself in every scene, and the fight scene at the end is breathtaking stuff, however through most of the movie the audeince is confined to the inner walls of the palace, and at times the film struggles to keep its excitement, and fo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dgribble at 15:59, 26 March 2008 | Report This Post


bit harsh?

I thought this was excellent - certainly the equal of Hero and Flying Daggers. Fighting, beautiful costumes, even more beautiful women... what more could you ask for? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davey_wan at 23:58, 20 November 2007 | Report This Post


Not The Strongest Nor The Weakest

Curse Of The Golden Flower was spectacularly lavish but was empty throughout. Yimou's Daggers was exceptionally the best of his Wushu Trilogy but Hero, although visually stunning, was a complete mess plot wise and the acting was bland. So Curse Of The Golden Flower is in the middle. The acting was superb, especially Gong Li & Chow Yun Fat as the Emperor & Empress. The plot was really well done and a lot more accomplished than Hero but the action scenes are limited and kept until the very... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Filmfreak666 at 17:28, 21 June 2007 | Report This Post


this is a grand, opulent spectacle The screen filledwith lavish compositions positively dripping with decadent extravagance and ornate detail, and stunning aerial assaults that sees ninja commandos swooping down from the heavens ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 20:58, 20 April 2007 | Report This Post


Held up next to the likes of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou's latest tale of deceit and intrigue in the majesty of Imperial China is a cold and, at times, dull one. The sparse promise of stylish sword-play and exciting, breathless action is overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of every facet of the film. From the outrageously over the top visuals to the smouldering facial expressions and brooding, incestuous sub-plots, the audience is never once allowed to settle nor fully helped to... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Eomer_King at 16:31, 19 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE:

The most visually spectacular episode of Family Affairs I have ever seen. Chow Yun-Fat was great as usual as 'The King of Bling' to decides to 'mentally incapacitate' his wife after he discovers she's been having it away with his son. The son however, unbeknownst to most, is having it away with his half sister. Meanwhile his step brothers are trying to curry favour with both parents in establishing their futures. It's an beautiful film but as many have said, the story doesn't grab you... More

Posted by Timon at 13:46, 19 April 2007 | Report This Post


Visually stunning, but not as great as it hoped to be. I was a little disappointed in fact. I thought it would be like Hero. It tried to be but did not live up to that movie. Great work by the actors, cinematography is amazing, costumes and set design stunning; but the film curiously has little life nor characters that appeal or interest. Nice twist ending though, but plays largely like a retread of other, better movies. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 21:30, 16 April 2007 | Report This Post


Amazing action and cinematography

...but the rest was so drawn out. The fights were well cool (ninjas are awesome) but the rest of the film just lacked energy and had such a depressing ending. :s ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cerberous at 16:11, 16 April 2007 | Report This Post


pretty but boring

I was really excited about this film. I enjoyed Hero, but thought it was maybe a bit over the top in the visuals. House of Flying Daggers was brilliant, I loved it. Fantastic visuals, no over the top stuff like in Hero, good solid cast. With this, with Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li, I thought it would be the best bits of Hero - in its epic sense - and the brilliant up close action. For the most part, I found it to be really boring. WIth the exception of the ninja's gliding down to attack a villa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dabm at 01:13, 15 April 2007 | Report This Post


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