Curse of the Golden Flower

Just saw this last night.

I really liked it. One reviewer said it was like Chinese Hamlet.

Anybody else see it?

I did, I liked it a lot. I do have a question for anyone who is culturally Chinese.

Do you view the emperor as a good guy or bad guy?

The Emperor is evil. EVIL. But damn, he makes evil look fun.

My office calls it curse of the golden boobs, given Gong Li’s predominance of her assets doing much of the acting work.

I don’t speak for the rest of the culturally Chinese on these boards, but I’m going to go with wanton character direction and weak motivation hidden under Chow Yun Fatt’s solid acting isn’t going to be easy to classify him as either good or bad. I think he was meant to be tragic, but the script failed to developed the reasons why he chose to do what he did. Chinese history is actually quite reverent towards empresses.

Also, the general consensus among my people is that Jay Chou can’t act. Sure he can rap to a good beat, but he can’t act.

I thought the acting was better than some of the criticism (here and admittedly in several reviews) describes, but not that much better.

I agree that Jay Chou was probably the stiffest of the bunch.

As far as the crazy cleavage town shots, I mean, it’s a lot tamer than a lot of what you would get in western cinema. This is the second time I’ve seen it called out and I don’t really get the criticism.

I mean, if Kate Winslet walks within 30 yards of a hollywood drama that film is going to have her beaver in it.

I’m not culturally Chinese, but I found it interesting how much CotGF, like Hero, sends the message that if you rebel against authority, you will be hammered down. Maybe that’s the bargain that Zhang Yimou struck with the government to get these movies made in mainland China. Contrast this with wuxia movies from Hong Kong, which usually portray authority figures as corrupt or comical, if at all.

There is a Chinese Hamlet. It’s called The Banquet. I wouldn’t be shocked if the reviewer just got the two mixed up (these movies are mostly interchangeable anyway).

I read somewhere these movies all have PRC-approved endings (It was an article about “Hero” and the tyrant’s creed, but that’s all I remember.)

Nothing unusual about that. Any movie has to be passed by the state film bureau to be screened in Chinese theaters, and if you want official backing you need approval right from the script stage.

I sort of liked it, but I feel guilty for not liking it more. Between Gong Li looking gorgeous, Chow Yun Fat looking bad ass, and those amazing shots of the Forbidden City filled with flowers, who could not love this movie. Add in Chinese fucking ninjas, polearm-fu and dozens and dozens of busty 90 pound Chinese women showing so much cleavage you can see nip, and I feel absolutely churlish in thinking it was just OK.

And I’ll throw out another question to the culturally Chinese. Did you actually understand anybody’s motivations for doing anything? Is it some sort of ancient story everyone knows, so you can leave out the details and everyone still understands what’s going on?

It’s based on a very popular play by Cao Yu (probably the most famous Chinese playwright of the last century), so a lot of Chinese viewers would know the story already.

It’s not quite “ancient,” but it’s based on a very popular play by Cao Yu (probably the most famous Chinese playwright of the last century), so a lot of Chinese viewers would know the story already.

Nice to know. By the end of the movie I felt like I had just watched the The Big Sleep again.

I prefer to describe it as The Lion in Winter - i.e., dysfunctional royal family drama / intrigue - but with more kung-fu.

[And will all due props to Katharine Hepburn, she never sported poppers like Gong Li.]

Oh, and those ladies outfits are based on actual Tang Dynasty clothes. Not sure if the Wonderbras are quite as historically accurate, though…

Dunno if I’m “culturally Chinese” enough to answer this to your satisfaction, but I saw him as a pretty selfish guy: basically it sounds like everything he’s ever done has been to further his own ambitions (e.g., imprisoning his first wife so he could marry his second) or securing his power (e.g., appointing his doctor as governor so he can get him out of the palace and dispose of him quietly). Like every monarch, he worries about his line of succession, but but that has more to do with his own vanity and securing his legacy than any legitimate concern for the fate of China, IMHO.

The one thing which was never explained to my satisfaction is: why was the Emperor poisoning the Empress in the first place? My best guess is that he was simply trying to neutralize her without killing her by robbing her of her mental faculties, but I couldn’t figure out to what end.

Traditionally speaking, the Emperor is above good and evil.

The idea of Good and Evil is different amongst Chinese. In Judeo-Christian culture - with sin at the center of faith - there’s more of a tendency to classify things as good/evil. Chinese culture is more the Yin/Yang concept, there’s good in evil and evil in good. Things are classified as more right from wrong than anything else. Rather, it’s what is done to benefit the most that matters the most. Kind of the reason why Communism became so popular amongst the Chinese.

In more modern times (and especially because of the book), Cao Cao is seen as the bad guy. But historically, there are Chinese who would see him as a hero and some as the villain.

Our local alt weekly paper gave it zero stars:

It deeply pains me, an adoring fan of Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers), to say that this is one of the worst films of 2006. I mean, yes to opulence, passion, courtly intrigue, illicit sex, etc. But no—please, God no—to histrionics overblown on a nuclear scale, and a total disconnect from reality that would make even Bugs Bunny go, “Wha …?” At first it’s merely ridiculously lavish, both visually and emotionally—the palace of a 10th-century emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) looks like my favorite dim-sum place exploded; the empress (Gong Li) is sexing up her stepson, the crown prince. But before long you realize that none of it makes sense—way beyond the not-making-sense that movies can often get away with. It finally collapses under its own preposterousness, and loses all of the audience’s trust and consideration. - Maryann Johanson

Any rebuttals? “It’s Hamlet” and “it has boobs” probably isn’t enough to get me to see it, though I was really hoping it would be good.

I thought it was because he found out that she was bonking his first son.

SPOILERS

Here’s my problem-- he was going to disinherit his first son and make the second son his heir. Mainly because son 1 had never been out of the palace, was bonking the queen (not to mention his sister), and was generally a stupid fop. But when son 3 offs son 1, why does the king get so upset? Now he doesn’t have to worry about changing the succession or anything, it’s all done for him. From his point of view, son 2 was the king’s man, and if he’d just kept him out of the way long enough for the queen to die, then the king could’ve had his power AND his legacy.

So why’d he go nuts on son 3?

It’s not son 3’s place to kill his brother. At least, not yet.

I was kind of thinking this. It seemed to me that this was a moral tale, and the moral was “Do not challenge the established authority.” which is why I am sure the Chinese government loves this story.

It does not matter what kind of a bastard the emperor is because he is your leader, and you never question him. I was wondering, if I was culturally Chinese, would I look upon this story and think that it had a happy ending and all things turned out the way they should have?

SPOLIER warning…

I think the best part of the movie, the punch line if there is one, was at the end when all the dust settles and the servants show up with the empresses medicine. That was priceless.

Well, I’m Chinese, but a couple of generations removed from being cultural about it. That is, I live outside mainland China, which is they’re reason to include everyone not having read the little red book and buying into those historical ideologies as foreigners. Damn you westerners!!

Anyway, much like DeepT has said. Historically, and somewhat culturally, there is a precedent to never challenge the father figure / moral authority / emperor above all. A lot of the conflict that happened in the movie was in direct antagonism against the emperor’s wishes, so he gets all medieval on everyone. I would guess that’s the basic idea behind what drives the story. (I didn’t read Cao Yu’s story, so I can’t say for sure if it’s inspired from the book or not)

That being said, all those little bits are kinda inferred and tucked away being the kung-fu, the wonder bras and the loving shots of gorgeous locales. I’m not a teriibly big fan og Zhang Yimou (Found House of Flying Daggers to be a repetitive bit of melodramatic angst) but he does have incredible visuals and stunning kung-fu. Now if he would only take the time to develope those “cultural” ideas instead of just mirroring them in ciphers of characters that eventually sag under its own ridiculousness.

Think of it as a Chinese Michael Bay movie if you will. Don’t try to read anything too chinese into it. You’re not really going to get really far with that approach.