Curse of the Golden Flower official site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/curseofthegoldenflower/
Gold… gold… gold… and more gold. A colour one will not miss out as it takes up the primary colour of the whole set, clothing and to even tiny details like the accesorries. It is said to be a lavish production… which used up $45 million and way surpass Chen Kaige’s The Promise to rank itself as the most expensive Chinese film to date.
Well..it’s not a big surprise for me since it was a much awaited re-collaboration between Zhang Yi Mou and Gong Li. They both goes on different ways after Zhang made Gong Li a superstar in Raise the Red Lantern 16 years ago. Yes, it was that long ago since they both worked together. So yes, how can it not be lavish.. since it also incorporated the legendary Chow Yun Fat.
I WAS CONNED! Now… I went booking for the movies which stated the show was in mandarin. Well.. of course I expect to see the movie in mandarin because most of the stars speaks best in that language (except for Chow Yun Fat). Sigh… only to notice it was in some weird dubbed Cantonese language. Now.. I want a refund!
Okay… let me start telling you a bedtime story. Ah.. the opening of the movie is just so cool. Set in the Tang Dynasty which was during the 10 kingdoms era, it starts by teling out a lot about how everything in the royal palace works in a certain order and rules. And of course rules and order applies to everyone. The opening scene showing how the servants in the palace woke up, get dressed, make up was simply amazing and in order.
It then tells tale about Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) who is mother to the younger two brothers, Prince Jai (Jay Chow) and Prince Yu (Qin Junjie) and step-mother to the eldest, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). For the past 10 years, medication was served to her every 2 hours under Emperor Ping’s (Chow Yun Fat) order as he believes she is diagnosed with some mysterious illness.
On the surface, everything looks just so normal but what’s hidden beneath the calm surface just gotta be shocking.The Empress was deeply in love and had an affair with Crown Prince Wan for several years. As years pass by, the guilt over the relationship increases. He tries many ways to avoid the Empress as he then maintains a secret relationship with the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong)’s daughter Jiang Chan (Li Man).
The movie reaches to another level when Prince Jai comes in to the scene. Prince Jai was sent away and join the frontliners a few years ago as a punishment for his previous mistakes. As he is making his return to the palace before the Chung Yong Festival, a big welcome ceremony was arranged. However the Emperor cancelled the ceremony and rode out to meet the prince at the Official Inn where the prince stop and awaits further order.
There, the Emperor engage Prince Jai in a sword duel. I totally love this scene as it really shows the level of detailness on the armours. It quickly pan back to the Forbidden City showing it’s time for the Empress to take her medicine again. After experiencing seizures in the past month or so and a gradual deterioration in health, she began suspecting a change in the composition of the medication prescribed to her personally by her husband. One could really see how she was disgusted and her unwillingly to drink the medicine.
Jiang Chan was appointed as the new palace maid to serve medicine to the Empress. Being the daughter of the Imperial Doctor, she quickly discovers the addition of a poisonous secret ingrediant to the Empress new medication. This has put her in a difficult position as she have to proceed with her orders while having this guilts watching the Empress drink down the poisonous medicine. At one event, she refuses to drink the last mouthful.
It causes a big drama as the royal family sat together on the morning of the festival. The last mouthful of medicine which the Empress refuse to drink was served again under the Emperor’s order to give a clear picture to the royal family how important order and rules are and in a way, shows out how much power he has. The Empress unwillingly drink the remaining of the medicine when Prince Yu and Prince Wan begged her. Prince Yu request to be the commander of the palace guards on the night of the festival, however the task was passed to Prince Jai.
Knowing something is wrong, the Empress hires a spy which turns out to be the Imprial Doctor’s wife (Chen Jin). She infiltrates the palace and informs the Empress of the poisonous secret ingrediant in her medication. Unknown to many, she is the first wife of the Empror. She was betrayed by the Emperor and managed to escape from death and imprisonment without the Emperor’s knowledge. While escaping, she met and saved by the Imperial Doctor, whom she later married while concealing her identity, and gave birth to Jiang Chan.
As the spy attempted to leave the palace, she was captured by Prince Wan and was brought to the Emperor’s attention. After knowing who she was, the Emperor set her free and promoted the Imperial Doctor, and send them off as a form of repayment for his past misdeeds.
Prince Jai on the other hand is concerned about the Empress health. The Empress then inform Prince Jai about the secret ingrediant that has been added to her medication by the Emperor. She then asked Prince Jai to help her overthrown the Emperor and install Prince Jai as the new emperor. Being faithful and loyal, Prince Jai was in a dilemma but he quickly agrees to help the Empress when he sees her drinking the poisoned medication every day and yet she can’t object to it.
Prince Wan chase after Jiang Chan and met up with her at the Official’s Inn. There, their love affair was quickly discoverd by the Imperial Doctor’s wife. She was so furious and shoo-ed the prince away. Jiang Chan then secretly chase after Prince Wan. Just as the Imperial Doctor is about to ask his wife why she was so furious, they were attacked by a group of ninjas sent by the Emperor to kill the entire family as they know too much of the Emperor’s secrets.
Another set of soldiers in red and blue showed up in the movie saving Jiang Chan and her mother and ensuring their safety back to the palace. Jiang Chan and her mother ramp in to the palace just in time and as planned, the Empress plans to reveal the true identity of the Imperial Doctor’s wife, and her husband’s secrets to all.
Jiang Chan goes crazy upon knowing she was actually having a relationship with his own brother. Prince Yu took advantage of the havoc situation and stabbed Prince Wan till death. He tries to rebel and wanted the Emperor to crown him as Crown Prince. He was later whipped till death by the Emperor with his heavy belt.
On the outside of the palace, Prince Jai and a large troop of soldiers (all in gold armour and each wears a scarf with an embroidered Chrysanthemum) marches in to the unguarded palace. He then leads his army to the main palace only to know it was a trap. They we surrounded and all of the soldier was shot till death.
I totally love the setting especially the golden accesorries. However I felt the whole setting in the palace give me this feel as if I was looking through a kaleidoscope. I think it was a little too much colour for me to grab at one go and everything seems to just gel in smoothly as it is gold gold gold gold and more gold.
Well.. I have no problem with Zhang trying to set a new style but I just think it was too much cleavage and with Gong Li walking so fast most of the time.. it is kinda distracting. But I must say.. her performance was damn good and she proves no one else can come close to her in taking up this role. Her acting was so cool that at points… I think she even overshadow Chow.
Chow Yun Fat on the other hand… somehow make me felt his acting skills were declining. Jay.. haha.. what can I say… he just ain’t a professional actor and how he got casted for the movie is still a myth. Put that aside.. the ninjas was hilarious. Down to earth funny. They swing and make noise like tarzan and I don’t know. I just don’t see them fit in any Tang Dynasty setting not to mention them swinging was so fake.
But well the ending fight scene was even worst. The CGI was fake… and the worst part… the Emperor ordered to spare Prince Jai’s life… and the general sorta like tell it out loud. But then ordered the archers to shot at the army. Looking at the amount of arrows… how possible could it not hit the prince? A whole 10 thousand army was dead except him.
I somehow think this was not Zhang’s best work and like House of Flying Daggers… it’s a beautiful movie.. but it’s lack of substance and plot. Well yes, of course many would be blinded by the sets and all.. but I personally think you just can’t ride on the success and do the same thing over and over and over again. People will forgive you once for doing it… but not forever. It’s time to wake up Zhang!