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Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)–The story took place in 928 A.D., during the Tang Dynasty in China; the movie was produced in 2006, released in January, 2007. Over a thousand years have passed, and times sure have changed the art of storytelling. What Zhang Yimou has constructed is a postmodern fusion of literary classics and cinematic productions: King Lear, Hamlet, MacBeth, Caligula, The Lord of the Rings, and yes, even Braveheart, concocted in a Chinese imperial court setting. Those with the appetite for a smorgasboard will not be disappointed to find something that they like, but COTGF is no gourmet cuisine. Zhang has aptly depicted the decadence behind the facade of opulence and glamour with his trademark exaggerated colours in cinematography. Under the skin of gold and jade hides the rotten flesh of incest, treason, deceit, murder, and rebellion; but one begs to ask, so what’s the difference between this story and others throughout history, or even just movie history? Hailed as the most expensive movie ever produced in China, Zhang seemed to have answered with the massive visual effects of a thousand real life, spear wielding actors in armour (plus the additional help of computer-generated images I assume), swarming the palace gates as ants, the elaborate set designs, and the choreography of uniformity, from the female courtiers to the massive foot soldiers. One gets the feeling that the movie is a spectacle made for foreign markets, and with Zhang himself being the chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, COTGF seems like a dry run for the programs. Nevertheless, kudos go to the actors whose intense performances have supported the storytelling, and newcomer singer-turned-actor Jay Chou has held his ground in front of veterans Gong and Chow. The ironic outcome though is that the intimate, authentic art of storytelling has been overshadowed by the sights and sounds of ostentatious movie-making.

~~1/2 Ripples

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