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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Martial Arts > Fantasy > China > Curse Of The Golden Flower (aka Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia/2006/DVD-Video)

Curse Of The Golden Flower (aka Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia/2006/DVD-Video)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: C+



Martial arts have been in films since the silent days, but slowly found themselves in U.S. releases slowly.  Peter Lorre’s Mr. Moto knew Judo, bits and pieces of such moves turned up in more films then Bruce Lee and Five Fingers Of Death saw the first full-blown Martial Arts cycle.  Even when the trend was over, you’d still see action heroes know some moves and recently, a new cycle arrived.  Besides stars who happen to know how to throw some kicks and chops, there is a sub-cycle of yester-decade Asian epics with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon having the best critical and commercial success of them all.  Zhang Yimou’s Curse Of The Golden Flower (aka Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia/2006) continues that cycle.


A royal family is slowly falling apart hidden behind the protective walls of their elaborate, glorious Forbidden City temple.  The Emperor has married a princess of a nearby city and even had two children, in effect melding the two areas.  But now, the return of the repressed is on the way and part of it will depend on Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) and Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat).


The cast is good, dramatic directing good, production & costumer design amazing and film visually nice to watch, yet the screenplay is somewhat predictable and the fighting is of the high-Fantasy kind where you can see people defying gravity and many can only defy disbelief so much with what has become a formula.  Sure, it is symbolic and arguably freezes the moves of masters in Martial Arts to display for posterity and the audience, but it also becomes a formula and if it were worse, a shtick routine.  Fortunately, the film takes itself seriously enough for it never to slip into self-satire, only matched by its ambitions.


Too bad it cannot go beyond its confines, but it is as good as Crouching Tiger and anyone who liked that film is likely to enjoy at least taking a look at this one.


Cinematographer Xiaoding Zhao delivers another stunning piece of camera work, the kind that is being admired on the spot already for films like Jet Li’s Hero and House Of The Flying Daggers.  As presented here in anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is beautiful, with production design and advanced use of color so complex, the standard DVD format simply cannot show it all.  If this is the master they use for the Blu-ray, it should be a stunner.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has good uses of music and surrounds throughout, but it makes one wish for DTS.  Otherwise, this is a solid presentation for DVD-Video.


Extras include a piece on the Los Angeles premiere and featurette Secrets Within showing the making of and motives behind the film and what it is trying to say and show.  At least it is ambitious, making it worth a look.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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