Tuesday, 17 April 2007

House of Lying Backstabbers


Zhang Yimou delivers his most intense martial artistry to date in Curse of the Golden Flower as audience's retinas are wushu'd to submission by a kaleidoscopic explosion of garish technicolour. One's fatigued ocular muscles, unable to drink in the fountain of opulent palatial detail, welcomes the few scenes of the drab monochrome world beyond the scheming palace walls. This in-your-face schizophrenic display of opulent LSD colours serves as a useful counterpoint and contrast to the dark, tragic Shakespearean theme that plagues this imperial family set during China's Tang dynasty. I haven't seen such a dysfunctional royal family on celluloid since the Tenenbaums (at least The Queen is based on REALITY...mwahahah). The Tenenbaums were quirky cute. This is incestuous tragic.

In the Red corner we have Chow Yun-Fat's artful-goatee-stroking emperor determined to slowly poison his reigning consort with a black Persian mushroom. In the Gold corner, perhaps already mentally unhinged by said fungi, Gong Li's bitchtastic scheming Queen, attended to by a sea of corsetted A-cup courtiers, conspires to usurp the throne with the help of son number two. In the remaining myriad corners of this ever enlarging rainbow coloured polygon, we have the three princes where their combined naivety, natures and nurture prove to be their own Achilles' heel in their undoing when caught up in the scheming ping-pong match of their parents' machinations.

The histrionic operatic denouement takes place at the Festival of the Chrysanthemum as the smug competitors attempts to outdo one another's ruses with their delivery of psychological pain of acupuncture accuracy, or less surgically, with a shock-and-awe array of CGI terra-cotta like armies streaming across the palace grounds or improbable black masked assassins that drop out of the night sky at convenient points to dispose of second rate characters once they served the overcooked plot's purpose.

Students of Shakespeare will recognise shades of Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello embroidered within the film's fabric so don't be surprised by the ending. Yimou's last two similarly themed martial arts films have operated on a delicate balance of emblematic colours and tales of intrigue which somehow delivered with Hero and to a lesser extent, the House of Flying Daggers, but this final act of the trilogy is his weakest in its bombastic plot and dubious logic.

Visually the film is a feast of Chinese banquet proportions but the MSG loaded story makes one emerge from the cinema with a lingering taste of a take away.

2 comments:

Elle Darko said...

Well done, saw your review in the paper! didn't know you had a blog...just had a quick perusal...some interesting posts...

El Draque said...

Hey...thanks elle!

Must. Shout. Out. My. Opinions. To. The. Rest. Of. The. World. hehehe

I'll probably get bored with this blog in a month but we'll see how it mutates with time.

Looking forward to reading yours too!