Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2006)

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Cinesimilitude
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#26 Post by Cinesimilitude » Fri Jan 19, 2007 5:54 am

Svevan wrote:Yimou has never been subtle, but he really went overboard here - is there something distinctively Chinese about this melodrama that my Western mind doesn't get? Is this what Chinese opera feels like?
I agree completely, ad would also like to know if this film is meant for people that are really into chinese history, or if it's as terrible as I thought. The colors were so ridiculous it was annoying, and the voice of the guy who announced the arrival of each character a hundred times made me want to drill through my eardrums. Oh, and 4 adults infront of me walked out at the first subtitle, reinforcing my hatred for the general populace of central alberta... Not one of my favorite nights.

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#27 Post by Grimfarrow » Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:40 am

Svevan wrote: I recall someone laughing during the ending of House of Flying Daggers when I first saw it, and I hated them for it. Yimou has never been subtle, but he really went overboard here - is there something distinctively Chinese about this melodrama that my Western mind doesn't get? Is this what Chinese opera feels like?
No, because here in Hong Kong everyone laughed too. And in FLYING DAGGERS too. I don't know why I still bother with Zhang Yimou.

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tavernier
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#28 Post by tavernier » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:17 am

You think Zhang is unsubtle directing his new movie? You should see his sledgehammer staging of Tan Dun's medicore new opera, "The First Emperor," at the Metropolitan Opera. Multicolored costumes and a large staircase set are all we get to look at for 3-1/2 hours.....no drama, no emotion, no insight. (And the music's nothing much, either.) Too bad.

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Michael Kerpan
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#29 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:36 am

FWIW, I have read that CotGF has done quite well at the box office in China.

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Barmy
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#30 Post by Barmy » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:28 pm

I actually thought Gong's perf was fine, and comparatively restrained. Keep in mind that she had to jerk and twitch at least a little bit just to be distinguishable from all that ridiculous shiny decor. Although the endless tit jiggling was a bit silly.

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#31 Post by Grimfarrow » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:34 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:FWIW, I have read that CotGF has done quite well at the box office in China.
How can it not when every other film is pulled out of the theatres, as ordered by the Chinese gov't, which guarantees there's zero competition?

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Michael Kerpan
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#32 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jan 20, 2007 10:58 am

Okay Grimfarrow

Whatever.

I suppose the government rounds people up on the street and forces them into the theater at gunpoint?

Your Zhang hatred is really slipping out of control.

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#33 Post by Grimfarrow » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:55 pm

Like your justification of box office to prove your point? That also means DA VINCI CODe must be great too! Such a box office hit! Whoo!

Please. The public buys into the hype - and Zhang Yimou is nothing but a Robert Zemeckis of China.

Daytime soap opera decked in fake gold and purple and whathaveyou with famous actors doing their darndest to not slip into caricature does not a good film (or good directing) make.

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#34 Post by Titus » Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:21 pm

Grimfarrow wrote:Like your justification of box office to prove your point? That also means DA VINCI CODe must be great too! Such a box office hit! Whoo!
I hardly think Michael was using box office numbers to validate his high estimation of the film. Svevan was the one who originally brought up Asian audiences, inquiring as to whether they "get" the film while Westerners are left out of the cultural loop. You then used laughter from Asian audiences as a means to deride the film and Zhang Yimou, suggesting that Asian audiences agreed with your (and Svevan's) negative assessment of the picture. All MK did was counter your point, which seemed like a cheap-shot to begin with.

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#35 Post by Grimfarrow » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:04 pm

If you think Zhang Yimou has any artistic relevancy at all as opposed to being a complete sell-out, then...you get the idea.

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Michael Kerpan
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#36 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:22 pm

I think Zhang Yimou's artistic credentials are sufficient to withstand the scurrilous attacks that seem to be increasingly trendy.

My observation on the film's (apparent) box office success in China had nothing to do with artistic validation -- but rather was a response to the claims (1) that the film is just crap made to cater to Westerners and (2) that all Chinese viewers agree that is just rubbish.

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#37 Post by TedW » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:10 pm

Grimfarrow wrote:If you think Zhang Yimou has any artistic relevancy at all as opposed to being a complete sell-out, then...you get the idea.
I've been a fan of Zhang's since the early 90s. I'm curious, is the notion that he's a "sellout" commonly held in H.K./China? Or is this Grimfarrow's sole contention (which is fine, of course -- he's entitled to an opinion)? I'm curious as to what has been the critical/cultural response of his countrymen to this mini-period of Hero-style movies.

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#38 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sun May 27, 2007 11:39 am

Saw this last night and this was definitely awful. Melodramatic overcooked tripe and even the battle sequences (despite Sony Pictures Classics misleading trailers) were poorly put together. The wire fighting was tired and the LOTR styled sequences were just two blobs of color moving toward each other. The acting across the board was brutal as well. I'm actually shocked this film was received as well as it was by critics.
SpoilerShow
Finally, with the Emperor having "outsmarted" everybody at the end of the film, is Yimou's message that rebellion against a governing body of any kind pointless? That it's better off to serve and shut up even in the face of injustice? I would investigate this more, but frankly, the film was so bad, I just don't really care that much.

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colinr0380
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#39 Post by colinr0380 » Sun May 27, 2007 1:54 pm

That sounds similar to the ending of Hero with its 'better the devil you know than the even worse anarchy that will occur if you change things' message. (Strangely similar to the line many politicians use today to keep everyone frightened and hold onto their positions of power!). I haven't seen Curse of the Golden Flower yet but the impression I got from Hero was comparable to your thoughts on the later film - that the heroic characters were passionate about what they felt and we as an audience could even fall for their strong principles and wish we could be as noble as them, but in the end their idealism only leads to tragic consequences for themselves and everyone who allies themselves with their cause.

The message in Hero felt that it was that the audience can enjoy watching this fantasy world of attractive, noble heroes but that the reality is that they need to shut up and let the grown ups (i.e. people with vision and responsibility governed by the head rather than the heart) rule the country even if they rule unjustly, because those rulers know best. I imagine these films as being opulent, ego stroking stories told at the court of someone like the King Of Qin for his benefit. After all, having such a noble enemy suddenly understand your cause and die instead of fulfilling his mission is a real propaganda coup and I could imagine that becoming a favourite story around the palace and getting steadily embellished with tales of how Nameless fought his way to the final meeting and of the various conflicts and love situations he went through before reaching that fatal point.*

(On first viewing I thought of Jet Li's death being similar to the Vietnamese monks who burnt themselves alive - suicide as a form of protest and which might inspire others to rebel. However on further viewings the change in Jet Li's character is presented too matter of factly to be anything so complex. It seems that he just came up against someone who argued their case well enough to convince him of their right to govern).

It makes me think that rulers sometimes long for the passion, sacrifice and idealism of heroes but know that their actions will never be seen in the same vein or be the inspiration for great works of art, which can cause them to want a bit tacked onto a story that says "yes, but these people would be too impulsive to govern if they succeeded in their aims" or "Ha Ha! I knew what you all were planning from the start!" *dramatic flourish*

That is why I mainly like Hero for its pretty colours, tragic love stories and fight sequences and nod off through its final didactic section.

*It strikes me that a criticism of The Matrix Reloaded as being a film that added nothing but spectacle to the Matrix trilogy without pushing the plot forward at all could be applied in a 'good' way to Hero - as long as you get the set up and the final showdown with the King in there you are free to do what you want with the mid-section: fight as many or as few other applicants for the job of killing the King as you want; make the love interest as convoluted or as simple as you want, just so long as Nameless ends up face to face with the King. I suppose knowing that things will climax in a showdown frees the filmmaker up to explore the world they have created during the middle. No wonder Tarantino 'presented' that film - the same kinds of things could be said about Kill Bill.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu May 31, 2007 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gropius
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#40 Post by Gropius » Sun May 27, 2007 8:15 pm

TedW wrote:I'm curious, is the notion that he's a "sellout" commonly held in H.K./China?
(Replying to this four months late): I don't know about the opinion of the general populace, but so-called Sixth Generation directors have dismissed Zhang as having become artistically irrelevant, and yes, a sell-out. Jia Zhang-Ke, who currently holds the torch of 'Western festival favourite', has been vocal about his disdain for Chinese costume epics in interviews.

Personally, I agree with him: endless reversion to remote historical confections allows Zhang to avoid confronting the real social/political problems of contemporary reality. China has the potential to be producing some of the most incisive films of the current epoch (I think Jia's Platform is a good example), but Curse of the Golden Flower is not one of them.

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