Curse of the Golden Flower | Movie Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Curse of the Golden Flower

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In 10th-century China, the unhappy marriage of the emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and his second wife (Gong Li) results in cascading series of betrayals, conspiracies and assaults within the royal household. Never has a dysfunctional family melodrama felt so epic, from the surreally sumptuous sets and costumes to the deliriously regimented palace protocol. The visual overload suits the cloistered hothouse of the palace, but the few scattered action and battle sequences, with their highly choreographed acrobatics and CGI gimmicks, feel less integral. This latest film from Chinese director Zhang Yimou has all the color-saturated excess of his earlier eye-popping spectacles (Hero), but lacks the genuine emotion of his more finely sketched dramas (Riding Alone, The Road Home). The narrative is operatic nearly to the point of silliness but there's real pleasure in watching pros Chow and Gong circle each other like beautifully plumed, crazed birds of prey. In Mandarin, with subtitles. (AH)

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