The movie is set in 928AD, and takes place almost entirely within the palace of Emperor Ping, played by Chow Yun Fat.
Emperor Ping is in total control, even his wife and children must obey his every word precisely so as to ‘set an example’ for their people. His wife, Empress Pheonix is played by Gong Li, and has been taking medicine for her Anemia for ten years, but just recently has noticed that a new ingredient has been added. She hires a woman to find out what the ingredient is, which turns out to be poisonous.
Emperor Ping’s first son Prince Wan (played by Liu We), who was born to a different woman, was secretly having an affair with Empress Phoenix. But now, Wan has starting seeing another young girl secretly who is a servant at the palace. The servant’s mother, also happens to be the woman the Empress hired to investigate the new ingredient in her medicine.
The Empress decides she will force the Emperor to abdicate and wants her eldest son Prince Jai (Jay Chou) to become Emporer. Jai agrees to help, as he discovers that his father is indeed poisoning his mother.
(spoilers:) Paths cross and we discover that the woman the Empress hired is the mother of Prince Wan, and Prince Wan has been unknowingly sleeping with his half sister. As the time approaches the Empress’ plans to be executed, many unexpected things start happening and great battles and plot twists occur as the family feud is taken to unbelievable heights.
An Epic Family Feud!
As I said earlier, you’ve got some domestic problems here, but taken to a whole new level!
With an Emperor, palace servants and personal armies being used to over power each side of the feud, hundreds if not thousands of lives are destroyed over this family’s plan. It takes a situation concerning less than 10 people and makes it absolutely epic, involving hundreds or thousands!
The epic scale is backed up by a stunningly huge visual look to the palace and a level of costuming and environment which showcases a level of power most people couldn’t imagine having. The palace is the size of a small town, and the Emperor’s family do almost nothing for themselves, with servants picking up after them and answering to their every single call.
This movie shows us a world of the unbelievably rich and powerful, and how it can also be an extremely miserable way to live when it’s controlled by the wrong people.
But what makes this movie isn’t the epic scale, but the simple plot twists and turns as 2 sides of an argument becomes 3 or 4 when different parties step in execute their own personal plans. The situation becomes the ultimate mess of revenge and power struggles but is told so perfectly, and you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen right up to the very second the credits start rolling.
Even from the very start the Empress is seen knitting small golden flowers onto fabric, and refuses to stop. This all seems very confusing but it all ties in as at the very end of the film as all those sided with her wear this golden flower symbol. Throughout the movie lots of these little hints all come full circle at the end of the film – keep an eye on the youngest prince as you watch this film!
Forget Martial Arts epic, this is just a fantastic film with great visual appeal backed by one of the most intriguing stories I have ever been sucked into in a film.
The Martial Arts & Action
This movie is absolutely stunning, but in no way a ‘great martial arts film’. This film is about power struggle within a family and the relationships behind the struggle. Fighting is only showcased here and there with an epic but quite ordinarily presented battle at the end of the film. This battle is overpowered by the heavy themes of what’s happening behind the battle.
Some of what we see at the beginning of the film is nice, with a small sparring session between Prince Jai and the Emperor being probably the best of the film, but also is on the lowest scale.
The main epic is the battle that take place toward the end of the film, but these are ruled mostly by CGI and focus less on the actual one on one fighting between soldiers. The amount of CG involved isn’t surprising as this was the most expensive film released in China at the time, and no expense has been spared to make this movie visually epic. Unfortunately some of the battles suffered, but there are a few that benefited from this epic scale.
As an action film it’s nothing special at all.
As a movie in general it is absolutely stunning, telling a very intriguing story that has you sucked right in, waiting to see what happens next. This film is a classic across the board as far as I’m concerned, I recommend it to anyone! But don’t expect a martial arts epic.
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Curse of the Golden Flower [Blu-ray]
Region Free (All Countries)
Curse of the Golden Flower [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Curse of the Golden Flower
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Curse of the Golden Flower [DVD]