Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

Directed by: Yimou Zhang

Premise: Emperor Ping (Chow Yun Fat) attempts to maintain control over his kingdom while his wife (Li Gong) and eldest son (Ye Liu) plot to overthrow him.

What Works: Curse of the Golden Flower is a film that delivers in all areas. It is tightly scripted, well acted, and satisfying as an action film, as an epic, and as a family drama. Golden Flower takes some narrative risks, dealing with difficult thematic material, including Oedipal impulses, and is able to use them to make the picture a stronger experience, grounding the political story in a familial framework, much like how The Godfather makes the inner workings of the mafia palatable by playing them out in conjunction with the story of a family. Golden Flower’s action sequences are well choreographed and while they feature the kind of wirework characteristic of this genre, they also have a fluidity and credibility to them that hasn’t been seen before in Zhang’s films.

What Doesn’t: The transition into the third act is bit rough. The motives of Emperor Ping that push him and country to war are sketchy. The ending of the film, while capitalizing on the tragedy, is surprising and defies conventional thinking about how epics ought to end; while this is to the film’s credit, some viewers might be turned off by Curse of the Golden Flower’s downbeat ending.

Bottom Line: Curse of the Golden Flower is another great picture from the director of Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. While Curse of the Golden Flower is better than Flying Daggers, it does not reach the heights in quality of Hero, but that is a tall order. As it is, Curse of the Golden Flower is a terrific film that features some great work.

 

Episode: #127 (January 28, 2007)