Monday, April 02, 2007

[Movie Review] Curse of the Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower may be the most beautiful movie I've ever seen. It's certainly not the best movie I've seen, and there's a lot about it that left me scratching my head afterwards, but one thing that's not in doubt is that you've never seen anything like this.

Like most movies in this genre ("Hero", "House of Flying Daggers", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), the movie itself had lots of inscrutable parts. In fact, I had trouble scruting most of the second half of the film. You think you have an idea of what's going on, but then people start flying and balancing on top of a flower, and armies start popping up out of nowhere and you realize you probably missed a key bit of explanation twenty minutes earlier. The plot of this movie concerned secrets and revenge and the repression of women in 10th century China, but none of that mattered.

No, all that matters is that from the first frame to the last, this movie is a feast for the eyes. The image included at the top of this post is just one example of the orchestra of color you will experience. At no point do you ever really feel that you are seeing something real, or that this is in any way a true representation of the period, but I'm sure it's exactly what that period FELT like.

Here's a link to a gallery of still photos from the movie, which really don't do any justice to seeing this stuff in motion.

I don't have an HDTV yet, but I may have to get one just to watch this film again, to see it in even richer detail.

"Curse of the Golden Flower" is Chinese director Yimou Zhang's third wire-fu, period film, coming on the heals of the almost-but-not-quite-as-beautiful films, "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers." After this unofficial trilogy, I'm not sure what ground is left for Zhang to cover in this genre. I'm sure there are hundreds of other Chinese legends yet to be filmed, but are any of them unique enough for him to spend his time on? Fortunately, he's just as well-known (in Asia) for his non-genre films, and I'm eager to check some of those out.

In addition to the stunning art design and cinematography, I have to also commend the acting in this (despite the sometimes bewildering directions the story would take). Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat were both mesmerizing and prove once again that foreign actors and actresses should stick with films that allow them to speak their native language. Gong Li was forced to speak English in "Miami Vice", and as a result, her entire performance was awkward and stilted. In a similar vein, I've never liked Penelope Cruz, but I'm curious to check her out in "Volver" (for which she was nominated for Best Actress) since she speaks in Spanish in this movie, rather than English.

So, to sum up, Curse of the Golden Flower is a mesmerizing movie, beginning to end. If you're one of the lucky few that is able to follow the plots of these Chinese "Wuxia" legends, then you'll really like this movie. As it is, I'm looking forward to seeing this movie again, in the highest resolution possible.

Story: Five Teeth. Overall: Eight Teeth.

1 comment:

Dorlana said...

I forgot about this movie. Now I remember wanting to see it when it first came out. I really liked the movie, “House of Flying Daggers” because of the colors and vivid scenery. This movie sounds like it offers even more of a visual treat. I can’t wait to see it.