Monday, February 09, 2009

Curse of the Golden Flower : A Film by Yimou Zhang

The Chinese empress is caught in love triangle. The emperor is suspected of slowly poisoning his wife. Their three sons must choose sides. This just begins to describe the plot of the Chinese film The Curse of the Golden Flower by director Yimou Zhang, a visually stunning epic with Shakespearean aspirations.

Film buffs may recognize Yimou Zhang as the director of Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles and Hero. The later film was also remarkably colorful. I especially remember a gorgeous scene with swirling autumn leaves. Hero made bold use of primary colors. In The Curse of the Golden Flower, the director takes us deep within the Forbidden City where the great halls, living quarters, and corridors are unbelievably opulent. The grandest images, however, occur outside in the great square, where millions of chrysanthemums are set to honor the death of the first empress. It is among the flowers where the great battle of rival armies occurs.

We showed The Curse of the Golden Flower for the film discussion group at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library who seemed quite entertained. One viewer noted that the beginning sequence of men of war returning to the palace while the women prepared resembled the start of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Another reminded us of Akira Kurosawa's more direct references to King Lear in his epic film Ran. I was reminded of the battle scenes in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Curse of the Golden Flowers has not been as widely distributed as any of those films, so it is still a good choice for film discussions. many public libraries should add it to their collections.

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