Compared to his last two films, "Hero" and "House of FlyingDaggers," director Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower" is abit of a puzzle.
It's opulent, dramatic and larded with the saturated colors forwhich he's known. It's also badly paced, pivoting between excitingmoments and endless ones.
Imagine King Lear and Macbeth filtered through Dynasty. Set 1,000years ago during China's Tang Dynasty, "Flower" is the story of apowerful emperor (Chow Yun Fat) and his dysfunctional family. Dad istrying to poison the empress (Gong Li), while she is plotting a palacecoup with the help of one of her three sons. Another son - the crownprince - is in love with a servant. And the youngest son is seethingwith discontent. No one takes him seriously.
"Curse of the Golden Flower" is about what goes on behind thegolden palace gates. Despite their wealth, none of the royals arehappy. Old vendettas surface and warmth is a fleeting commodity. Wedon't like the characters, but we marvel at their ruthlessness.
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Yimou gets fine performances from his cast, especially Gong Li as awoman who knows she's being poisoned, and the film is a visual tour deforce.
Sadly, much of the intrigue comes in the form of whisperedconspiracies. For every five minutes of battle footage there are 15 ofverbal exposition.
Extras: A making-of featurette.
"Curse of the Golden Flower" is available on DVD and PSP from Sony. 114 minutes. RatedR. $28.95. Grade: B-