Sunday, December 24, 2006

Blood, Bosoms & Bouquets

Zhang Yimou is a Chinese director with over a dozen film credits to his name, including films most viewers have raved about such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Raise the Red Lantern. Zhang usually does an excellent job of having his actors play out various forms of tension in the movie plots – sexual tension, competitive tension, parent-child tension and tension between warring states. Not to forget, his trademark fetish for colors and fabrics is hard to miss.

The Curse of the Golden Flower,” is Zhang’s latest work. The plot revolves around a Tang dynasty emperor, played by Chow Yung Fat, his empress consort, played by Gong Li, and their three sons.

Sibling rivalries, political intrigue, assassination plots and incestuous relationships intertwine in this undeveloped King Lear/Macbeth-like screenplay. The Emperor and Empress conspire against each another, and use the princes as pawns. But the sons have their own agendas. Who will triumph? Who will fail? Watch the movie, if you dare, and find out what happens in this rainbow-sherbet-hued palace intrigue.

Blood – There are several battle scenes where blood is spilled and splattered, everywhere. You never know which way the battles will swing and who will end up victorious. Incidentally, I’m pretty certain there were several anachronistic instruments of war in this film. Indeed, if the emperors really had such efficient and resilient human fighting machines at their disposal, the course of Chinese history would not be the same.

Bosoms – Director Zhang decided to use extremely revealing Tang dynasty tube tops for the Empress, her ladies in waiting and the legions of the Emperor’s concubines. Every scene involving female actors includes gratuitous cleavage shots. Think almond gelatin. It nearly made the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” seem rather tame in comparison.

Bouquets – As the title suggests, golden flower chrysanthemums play a key part in the movie. Chrysanthemum blossoms are ubiquitous. Seeing all those flowers made me thirst for chrysanthemum tea. I’m sure this wasn’t the affect the director intended.

All things considered, the movie was entertaining. One warning for those who intend to see it: the ending was disappointing. When the credits were rolling, I could swear that audience members were looking at one another with arched eyebrows. When a movie leaves you thinking of bouncing bosoms and mando-pop, is it really worthwhile? I’ll let you decide on your own. Paraphrasing the immortal British character Arthur Dent, “Do you have any chrysanthemum tea?” A cuppa this would have provided a more satisfying ending.