Curse of the Golden Flower

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Curse of the Golden Flower
Curseofgoldenflower.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional 滿城盡帶黃金甲
Simplified 满城尽带黄金甲
Mandarin Mǎnchéng Jìndài Huángjīnjiǎ
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Produced by William Kong
Zhang Weiping
Zhang Yimou
Written by Zhang Yimou
Based on Thunderstorm 
by Cao Yu
Starring Chow Yun-fat
Gong Li
Jay Chou
Qin Junjie
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Cinematography Zhao Xiaoding
Distributed by Edko Film
Release dates
  • December 21, 2006 (2006-12-21)
Running time 114 minutes
Country China
Language Mandarin
Budget $45 million
Box office $78,568,977

Curse of the Golden Flower is a 2006 Chinese epic drama film written and directed by Zhang Yimou.

With a budget of US$45 million, it was at the time of its release the most expensive Chinese film to date, surpassing Chen Kaige's The Promise.[1] It was chosen as China's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for the year 2006;[2] but did not receive the nomination. The film was however nominated for Costume Design. In 2007 it received fourteen nominations at the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards and won Best Actress for Gong Li, Best Art Direction, Best Costume and Make Up Design and Best Original Film Song for "菊花台" (Chrysanthemum Terrace) by Jay Chou.[3]

The plot is based on Cao Yu's 1934 play Thunderstorm (雷雨 pinyin: Léiyǔ), but is set in the Imperial court in ancient China.

Plot[edit]

Gold-flowers fill the imperial palace on the eve of Zhong Yang. The Emperor (Chow Yun-fat) returns from his military campaigns with his second son and general, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), in order to celebrate the holiday with his family.

For three years, the Empress (Gong Li) has had an illicit affair with Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson, who was born between the Emperor and a mistress. Crown Prince Wan is not interested in the throne and wishes to run away with his secret lover, Jiang Chan (Li Man), the daughter of the imperial doctor Jiang Yiru. Meanwhile, Prince Jai becomes worried over the Empress's ill health and wonders why she expresses love for gold-flowers.

The Empress summons Prince Jai and reveals that she plans to overthrow the Emperor. She asks Prince Jai to lead her soldiers but he hesitates, saying that he cannot betray his own father. However, he changes his mind after seeing his mother suffer from medicine that was apparently poisoned. It turns out, the imperial doctor and his daughter have been poisoning the Empress's medicine on orders from the Emperor, who wants his wife's health to stay poor.

The Empress hires a mysterious woman to find out the poison's species. She is successful and reveals that it is Persian Black Fungus, but right after, Crown Prince Wan captures the woman and takes her to the Emperor. The woman identifies herself as Jiang Shi (Chen Jin), the wife of the imperial doctor and the former mistress of the Emperor. She was left for dead years ago and now hates the Emperor's regime. The Emperor decides not to punish her and she reunites with her husband and daughter. The Emperor also decides to promote the doctor to governor of some region, so the doctor and his family pack up their things and set out.

Crown Prince Wan is sad that the doctor's daughter is leaving. He runs after their convoy and speaks to her, and learns that the Empress is changing her living habits, that this might mark the beginning of some conspiracy. He hurries back to the palace and confronts the Empress, who confesses that she is going to rebel. She tells Crown Prince Wan that she wishes he were dead. Out of sadness, Crown Prince Wan stabs himself and gets placed under care.

The doctor's family gets attacked by the Emperor's assassins. His servants and soldiers loyally try to fight them, but the doctor gets killed. The doctor's wife and daughter flee on horseback and head for the palace. When the two of them arrive at the palace, they interrupt an ongoing ceremony and demand that the Emperor answer why he wants them killed. The Emperor is reluctant to answer. The Empress interrupts and reveals to everyone that the doctor's wife is the same mistress who bore Crown Prince Wan, which means that the doctor's daughter and Crown Prince Wan were half-sisters all this time. The doctor's daughter screams upon hearing this, and she and her mother are promptly cut down by more assassins.

At this moment, the youngest son, Prince Yu, abruptly kills Crown Prince Wan with a dagger, and he summons a group of his own soldiers to kill the Emperor and take the throne. He reveals that he knew about the Emperor's affair and has been planning to evict him. But more of the Emperor's assassins descend from the ceiling and easily kill Prince Yu's soldiers. The Emperor takes a belt and flogs Prince Yu to death.

Right after, ten thousand soldiers wearing high-quality, golden armor and gold-flower sigils close in on the palace. Prince Jai is leading them. It happens that Prince Jai, who wasn't present at the ceremony, has chosen this evening to start the rebellion. As they charge through the palace's outer square, they fight a group of the Emperor's assassins and kill them all. They advance and fill up the palace's massive inner square. However, they find themselves boxed inside by collapsable iron panels, and a few thousand grey-armored archers are surrounding them. The archers fire and kill them by the thousands. Hordes of gold soldiers attempt to flee, but the inner square gates are locked, and as they press against the gates, they are all killed by continuing arrow strikes. The Emperor actually had full knowledge of the plot because Crown Prince Wan told him, and he set up that trap beforehand.

Prince Jai rises from the sea of dead bodies and resists as the Emperor's gray-armored soldiers arrest him. Behind him, the courtyard is cleaned up with mechanical efficiency by a legion of servants, with bodies being removed, floors being scrubbed and laid with carpets, as if the entire failed rebellion hadn't happened. At midnight, the festival for Chong Yang begins as was scheduled.

The Emperor speaks with Prince Jai and the Empress at the ceremony table, while the seats of the deceased Prince Yu and Crown Prince Wan remain unoccupied. Prince Jai is offered forgiveness on the condition that every day, he should personally help the Emperor deliver the poisoned medicine to the Empress. Prince Jai refuses, and apologizes to his mother for the rebellion's failure, and kills himself with a dagger. His mother shrieks and slaps away a cup containing that medicine. The film credits roll and the spilled medicine is shown eating away at the wooden table and the wooden gold-flower engraved upon it.

Cast[edit]

  • Chow Yun-fat as Emperor Ping (大王 Dàwáng "Emperor") - Corresponding Thunderstorm character Zhou Puyuan
  • Gong Li as Empress Phoenix (王后 Wánghòu "Empress") - Corresponding to Zhou Fanyi
  • Jay Chou as Prince Jai (Prince Yuanjie (王子元杰 Wángzǐ Yuánjié)) - Corresponds to Lu Dahai
  • Qin Junjie as Prince Yu (Prince Yuancheng (王子元成 Wángzǐ Yuánchéng)) - Corresponds to Zhou Chong
  • Liu Ye as Crown Prince Wan (Crown Prince Yuanxiang (太子元祥 Tàizǐ Yuánxiáng)) - Corresponds to Zhou Ping.
  • Ni Dahong as Imperial Physician Jiang (蒋太医 Jiǎng-tàiyī) - He is later Governor of Xuju and Commander of Chariots - Corresponds to Lu Gui
  • Chen Jin as physician's wife (Mrs. Jiang (蒋氏 Jiǎng-shì)) - Corresponds to Lu Shiping
  • Li Man as Jiang Chan (蔣 嬋 Jiǎng Chán, physician's daughter) - Corresponds to Lu Sife

Title[edit]

The Chinese title of the movie is taken from the last line of a Tang dynasty poem attributed to the rebel leader Huang Chao, "On the Chrysanthemum, after failing the Imperial Examination" (不第後賦菊/不第后赋菊) or simply "Chrysanthemum":

When autumn comes on Double Ninth Festival, / my flower [the chrysanthemum] will bloom and all others perish. / When the sky-reaching fragrance [of the chrysanthemum] permeates Chang'an, / the whole city will be clothed in golden armour.[4]
(Original Chinese text: 待到秋來九月八,我花開後百花殺。沖天香陣透長安,滿城盡帶黃金甲。)

Due to the film's high profile while it was still in production, its title, which can be literally translated as "The Whole City is Clothed in Golden Armor", became a colorful metaphor for the spring 2006 sandstorms in Beijing and the term "golden armor" (黄金甲, huángjīnjiǎ) has since become a metaphor for sandstorms among the locals.[5]

Historical perspective[edit]

Buildings created for the film at Three Natural Bridges.

The screenplay is based on Thunderstorm, a renowned Chinese play written by Cao Yu in the 1930s.[6]

The English language version states that this movie is set in the Tang in the year 928. However, the Chinese version doesn't specify a time period.

The film's published screenplay indicates it is set during Later Shu of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.[7] In fact, the year 928 AD does not belong to Tang Dynasty, which actually ended in 907 AD. The year is in fact in the period of the Later Tang (923 AD to 936 AD) of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. On the other hand, two placenames, Qingzhou and Suzhou, are mentioned in the movie, but they were in fact not under the administration of either later Tang or later Shu. It should be noted that the story in the film is entirely fictional and has essentially no relation to real history. There are also a number of other inconsistencies with established Chinese history. These include:[citation needed]

  • The use of nail extensions by the Empress was not popular during the Tang Dynasty. Nail extensions did become popular during the Ming Dynasty some six hundred years later.[8]

Release[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The US release garnered a generally positive reception (although tepid comparing to the director's past works).

Richard Corliss of Time magazine praised the film's lurid operatic aspect and states: "this is high, and high-wire, melodrama...where matters of love and death are played at a perfect fever pitch. And grand this Golden Flower is."[9] Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times states: "In Curse of the Golden Flower Mr. Zhang achieves a kind of operatic delirium, opening the floodgates of image and melodrama until the line between tragedy and black comedy is all but erased."[10] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times describes the film as: "A period spectacle, steeped in awesome splendor and lethal palace intrigue, it climaxes in a stupendous battle scene and epic tragedy" and "director Zhang Yimou's lavish epic celebrates the gifts of actress Gong Li while weaving a timeless tale of intrigue, corruption and tragedy."[11] Andrew O'Hehir of Salon states: "the morbid grandiosity of Curse of the Golden Flower is its own distinctive accomplishment, another remarkable chapter in the career of Asia's most important living filmmaker."[12]

Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post writes: "Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower is a kind of feast, an over-the-top, all-stops-pulled-out lollapalooza that means to play kitschy and grand at once" and Hunter further states: "It's just a great old wild ride at the movies."[13]

On the other hand, Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing feels that the film was a poor reflection of director Zhang Yimou's acclaimed works of the past.[14] Bruce Westbrook of The Houston Chronicle though praising the film's spectacular visual, states "Visuals alone can't make a story soar, and too often this one becomes bogged down by spectacle..."[15] Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter states the film is "A disappointing misfire from a great director."[16] Gene Seymour of Newsweek states: "Curse of the Golden Flower is to the feudal costumed adventure what Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar is to the Western. Both bend their genres to the extremes of operatic grandeur with such force as to pull up just below the level of High Camp."[17] However Seymour states in the end that the film is overly melodramatic and ludicrous to absorb.[17]

The film received a score of 70 out of 100 from film critics according to the review aggregator Metacritic[18] and holds an average rating of 65% by film critics on the review ranking site Rotten Tomatoes.[19] Yahoo! Movies gave the film a B grade based on critical consensus.[20] It has grossed over $78 million worldwide.[21] It was also the third highest grossing non-English language film in 2006 after Apocalypto and Pan's Labyrinth.[22]

Soundtrack[edit]

Besides starring in the film, Jay Chou has also recorded two songs to accompany the film, one titled "Chrysanthemum Terrace" (Chinese: 菊花台; pinyin: Júhuā tái), released on his 2006 album Still Fantasy and one included in his Curse of the Golden Flower (EP). The EP includes Jay Chou's song "Golden Armor" (Chinese: 黄金甲; pinyin: Huángjīn jiǎ).

Awards and nominations[edit]

Curse of the Golden Flower won four awards out of 14 nominations from the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2007.

Category Nomination Result Ref
Best Film Curse of the Golden Flower Nominated [3]
Best Director Zhang Yimou Nominated
Best Actor Chow Yun-fat Nominated
Best Actress Gong Li Won
Best Supporting Actor Jay Chou Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Liu Ye Nominated
Best Cinematography Zhao Xiaoding Nominated
Art Direction Huo Tingxiao Won
Best Costume and Make Up Design Yee Chung-Man Won
Best Action Choreography Ching Siu-tung Nominated
Best Original Film Score Shigeru Umebayashi Nominated
Best Original Song "菊花台" (Chrysanthemum Flower Bed) by Jay Chou
from Still Fantasy
Won
Best Sound Design Tao Jing, Roger Savage Nominated
Best Visual Effects Cheuk Wah Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zhang Yimou raises "Armor" at CCTV
  2. ^ "'Curse,' 'The Banquet' picked as Oscar entries", Associated Press via Chinadotcom, October 3, 2006.
  3. ^ a b (Chinese) Hong Kong Film Awards official homepage 26th Hong Kong Film Awards winner/nomination list Retrieved 2011-06-15
  4. ^ "Chrysanthemum - flower of honour". People's Daily, China, November 16, 2003.
  5. ^ The Word on the Street is 黄金甲 (huáng jīn jiǎ) webcast at Chinese Pod.
  6. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Curse of the Golden Flower: A Film Review by James Berardinelli". Reelviews Movie Reviews, 2006. Accessed 11 August 2009.
  7. ^ The novel Curse of the Golden Flower
  8. ^ Foong Woei Wan (17 December 2006). "Down mammary lane". The Straits Times. 
  9. ^ Richard Corliss (2006-12-10). "Holiday Movies". Time. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  10. ^ Jeannette Catsoulis (December 21, 2006). "Movie Review: Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  11. ^ Kevin Thomas. "'Curse of the Golden Flower'". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ Andrew O'Hehir. "Curse of the Golden Flower". Salon.com. 
  13. ^ Stephen Hunter (2006-12-22). "'Golden Flower' Bursting With Martial Arts Fun". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  14. ^ Brunson, Matt. ""Foreign Affairs: Oscar hopefuls circle the globe". Creative Loafing Charlotte, 17 January 2007. Accessed 11 August 2009.
  15. ^ Westbrook, Bruce (December 22, 2006). "Looks beautiful, but wilts without plot to sustain it". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  16. ^ Kirk Honeycutt. "Curse of the Golden Flower". Hollywood Reporter. [dead link]
  17. ^ a b Gene Seymour. "Curse of the Golden Flower". Newsweek. 
  18. ^ Metacritic
  19. ^ Rottentomates
  20. ^ "Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)". Yahoo! Movies. 
  21. ^ Boxoffice Mojo
  22. ^ 2006 Worldwide Grosses

External links[edit]