Martial Arts Reviews: Curse of the Golden Flower
What makes a martial arts movie good? For some, it's the action, and movies that showcase the action fit the bill. However, recently there has emerged a second type of martial arts movies: those focusing more on the art aspect of the movie, and using martial arts and action as a mechanism for moving the plot (or plots) forward. These movies include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the newest offering to this class of movies, Curse of the Golden Flower, indeed a beautiful and lush film, declared to be a martial arts masterpiece in the style of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Chow Yun-Fat plays Emperor Ping, a Tang Dynasty emperor who, through strength and shrewd decision-making, has secured dominion over his lands. Part of this was achieved through his marriage to the beautiful Empress Phoenix, with whom he has begotten three princes: Crown Prince Wan, who has led a sheltered life in his preparation to take the throne; Prince Jai, leader of the Imperial Army, whose strength is matched only by his father; and Prince Yu, who despises his parents for paying more attention to his two elder brothers than to him.
However, the Imperial Family is far from the tightly knit clan that they appear to be. The Crown Prince has fallen in love with the daughter of the Imperial Physician, and seeks to escape his complicated life of royalty. The Empress is plotting to stage a coup by using Prince Jai and his men to take over the Imperial Palace. And last, but not least, Prince Yu remains, silently plotting a way for him to emerge into the spotlight and take what he believes to be his rightful place as Emperor.
However, Curse of the Golden Flower is by no means a martial arts film, but more a political thriller with everyone plotting against everyone else in a case of everyone having their own mutually exclusive agendas. In that respect, it was an excellent movie, full of twists, turns, and hidden plans. However, for an audience going into the film expecting the kind of martial arts that made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon such an amazing film, Curse of the Golden Flower hardly stands up in that respect. The action was heavily limited, occurring in a slight trickle up until the crowning moment at the end of the film when everything and everyone comes together in the final big clash.
Curse of the Golden Flower is far from an average movie. Filled with elegant costumes, decadent sets, and beauty all around, it is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the mind. Indeed, the film featured the largest set ever built for a movie in China. Curse of the Golden Flower is an amazing cinematic work, and not one to be watched casually, or taken lightly. It is a film that demands as much from its audience as it does from its performers.
* * *
Curse of the Golden Flower is available on DVD on Amazon.com.
* * * * *
Published on 7/9/07