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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Curse of the Golden Flower (***)

Of Zhang Yimou's last three pictures that received wide release in the United States, I think Curse of the Golden Flower is the least, with Hero second and House of Flying Daggers being the best. (A lot of people would reverse the top two, but I like Daggers better.) I didn't know anything about what Curse was about going in so I was pretty surprised when I realized there isn't a lot of kung fu in the picture, mostly saved for the awesome battle scene in the end. Curse is about betrayal and intrigue in the Chinese Imperial Family, a clan even more incestous and disfunctional than the Bluths or the McMahons. Chow Yun-Fat's emperor was sort of a Chinese Vince McMahon. Watching Curse was a stange experience as there were about 40 people in the theatre and I was one of the 7 or 8 non-Chinese in attendance. The Chinese girls in the audience reacted to Chow Yun-Fat and the other actors in the movie as if Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake were all sitting in a sauna together. Also, at least one Chinese dude in the audience was pretty slow on the uptake. The unwitting incest between one of the princes and his secret half-sister was pretty well spelled out long before the dude audibly gasped and put his hand over his mouth after putting it together. I bet he was equally disturbed when he saw Return of the Jedi and learned Luke had the hots for his sister in Star Wars and Empire.