Thursday, January 04, 2007

Watched December 25 - December 31, 2006

Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia / Curse of the Golden Flower (ZHANG Yimou, 2006)

One viewing was insufficient to assess this -- the most visually opulent film ever made by Zhang Yimou -- but I may not get a shot at another viewing until the DVD eventually appears. Based on my first viewing, though, I liked this film -- a lot. The most impressive aspects of this tale of incest and betrayal in 10th Century China (based on CAO Yu's classic play Thunderstorm) were the cinematography (by ZHAO Xiaoding) and GONG Li's lead performance as the oppressed and resentful (and scheming) wife of the suave but utterly treacherous emperor (CHOW Yun-fat). LIU Ye as Crown Prince Xiang also turned in a remarkable performance. Really though, there were no weak links in terms of acting.

This is probably ZY's darkest film (in mood) since Raise the Red Lantern -- and I found it quite unsettling to watch (and reflect upon). It is quite reminiscent of a Jacobean revenge tragedy, but with an even higher body count. The darkness in tone is (deliberately) at odds with the exuberant visual style. As much as I loved House of Flying Daggers, I would not be surprised if this ultimately became my favorite of ZY's wuxia trio.

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