Just last weekend, I decided to watch Zhang Yimou’s new movie translated in english, “Curse of the Golden Flower”. Here is re-united with his former muse, Gong Li and showcasing his new skills in Mandarin, Chow Yun-Fat.
I must admit the only thing that made me want to watch the thing movie was the fact that Gong Li was back. After “House of Flying Daggers” I was afraid to go back to the movie house. His style of filmmaking has changed dramtically since gaining western producers/ distributors for his recent films, notably “Hero” and HOFD. He was no longer the low budget artist (low budget by Hollywood standards) who told his story visually without the need of Wire-Fu martial arts and big name Asian actors to star in his movies. His movies had become, commercial. But his last two films, “Riding Along for Thousands of Miles” and “Curse of the Golden Flower” seems to break that streak of Hollywood.
Visibly noticeable from the opening sequence is the amount of cuts he uses, which is consistent throughout the entire movie. We are instantly drawn into the Imperial Palace of the latter part of the Tang Dynasty. We are not intruders, nor are servants to the palace. But the audience is treated like guests. We are there to witness all the intrigue and the ceremonies that surround the lives of the Imperial family of the time. Camera work is precise, not one frame out. Not one image out of place, the movement of every scene is well rehersed as if everything had already been scripted.
Zhang Yimou brings out the life of his characters by their mere eyes and hand gestures. This is most apparent in Gong Li’s performance. Her contained passion and anger is effortlessly portrayed on screen. Most of the film is on her anyway. But that is not to discount Chow Yun-Fat, who in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” had to memorize his lines since he was fluent in Cantonese, but not in Mandarin. That is not the case here. Here he pulls off probably one of his best performances all the while combing his beard.
I can’t say anything more about the movie without giving away the plot details, but it is a must see. Maybe we can see a glimpse on what the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics will look like.