Curse of the Golden Flower
(Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia) with Gong Li (photo), Chen Jin, Li Man, Hong Kong & China 2006 Period Drama 1:54 DVD
In ancient China, a lowly military captain, though already married with a son and daughter, marries the King of Liang's daughter in order to become emperor. The film begins several years later in 928 AD, during the decadent and corrupt Later Tang Dynasty (923-936 AD), when Emperor Ping and his favored stepson return to the palace after three years of waging war against the Mongols along the empire's northern border. While they were gone, Empress Phoenix has been having an affair with the emperor's weak and dissolute first son, her stepson, who is also secretly trysting with his stepmother's servant.
This is a fictional period extravaganza / Greek tragedy / Shakespearean melodrama about lies, betrayal, fraternal rivalry, desire, jealousy, hate, infidelity, incest, vengeance, violence, poisoning and murder presented like a grand operatic spectacle directed by Cecil B. DeMille with action scenes choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Imagine I, Claudius with sets and costumes designed by Liberace. The garishly psychedelic palace decor and the corseted voluptuous women revealing a lot of cleavage aren't historically accurate, but a joy to behold.
 
The story of this dysfunctional family is revealed through random bits of intrigue that provide a complete picture only after the last puzzle piece is set in place during the lavish annual Chong Yang (Chrysanthemum) Festival.
 
The breathtaking martial-arts scenes with black-suited, scythe-twirling ninja assassins swinging on ropes like spiders, swordsmen, archers and armies of thousands are spectacular.
 
Despite the historical setting, the movie is not factual. It's actually based on a 1934 Chinese play, Thunderstorm by Cao Yu, a protest play about the internal conflicts and rancid sexual habits within the feudal household of a rural mine owner.
 
Gong Li dominates the film as a scheming Joan Crawford-type goddess of fury and was awarded Best Actress at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Hong Kong Film Critics Awards. Chow Yun Fat is a wickedly nonchalant “Godfather.” Chen Jin gives the film's best performance. Li Man is director Zhang Yimou's latest “discovery.” This is the first time in 11 years Gong Li has worked with Zhang. Hopefully, they will now make more films together.
 
At $45 million, this is the most expensive Chinese movie ever made and it shows in every frame. This film has more in common visually with Chen Kaige's $35-million The Promise than Zhang's own Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The movie already has broken box office records in China. Overwhelming. In Asian Film Trailers.
 
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