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Curse of the Golden Flower


Stars: Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat

Director: Zhang Yimou

Imposingly mounted and extraordinary in its detail, if rather long and drawn-out, this vivid costume epic is set in China 928 AD, where intrigues abound in the royal palace.

The Empress (Gong Li) has had a three-year affair with her stepson (Liu Ye). Aware of this, the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) is slowly poisoning his wife through her daily 'medicine'.

Meanwhile the stepson is now enjoying a liaison with Chan (Li Man), the imperial doctor's daughter, and is prepared to hand over the crown princeship to Jai (Jay Chou), the Empress's elder son, while youngest son Yu (Qin Junjie) lurks jealously in the background.

And what has become of the Emperor's first wife? A right royal mess, as you can see, amd the mix of Hamlet and Macbeth predictably ends with bodies strewn all over the fields of golden chrysanthemums that surround the imperial palace.

There are some stupendously orchestrated battle scenes in this last section with assassins swooping seemingly from the skies, thousands of extras (a little helped by CGI effects) charging into each other, and hailstorms of arrows flying across the fields of flowers.

Full of irony, hatred and revenge, this is a truly heady melodrama for those prepared to sit through similar scenes until a brew less stable than the Empress's medicine explodes into a series of combats, battles and assassinations, in a world where even a doctor's wife and daughter can be mistresses of mystic martial arts.

David Quinlan

Hong Kong/China 2006. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 07 Apr 2007