05 January 2007

Movie Review: Curse of the Golden Flower

It's not a movie I was dying to watch; it's not even one which I would consider watching. But since some friends have asked me to join in, I thought I might as well do so, since I haven't watched a movie some time, and I was pretty impressed by Zhang Yimou's Hero as well.

So how does Curse of the Golden Flower measure up? It's certainly not Heroic, but I do think it is better than Zhang's other film House of Flying Daggers. It has Zhang's trademark use of staggering visuals and colours in his scenes, but it also has (at least for his internationally successful movies) his trademark of a simple storyline spun into a confounding plot.

I'm not sure if that was deliberate... a choice of his... but I thought he could do better with a deeper or more meaningful story. This one is mainly about betrayal and assassination within the royal family, and once one strips off the confusing excesses, the plot is pretty straightforward. And this movie is a love story/soap opera, which isn't my genre of movies or stories.

As mentioned, Zhang's use of colours and breathtaking visuals are excellent, as usual, though this time most of the scenes take place indoors. The music, on the other hand, is rather crappy. There was consistent use of choir-like music (no words though, just singing of the tune) which seemed to be a blend of those Latin choir pieces that Hollywood likes so much nowadays and traditional Chinese orchestral music. I don't know what other people think, but I found it disappointing. In any case, I did not stay during the credits to listen to Jay Chou's song for the movie, so no comments on that.

Oh, if the music director did a bad job, the costume designer was even worse. Before watching the movie, I already heard complaints of scantily clad actresses in the movie (excluding those that are not supposed to look nice). And they certainly weren't exaggerating. Looking at the progression of Zhang's movies since Hero, I see a trend of females wearing less and less. I suppose in his next few movies we can expect ancient Chinese women prancing around in bikinis or nipple rings.

Lastly, the acting was disappointing. It had strong and experienced artistes: Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li, but I didn't see any brilliance in them. Okay, Gong Li wasn't that bad, but I was far from impressed by Chow Yun-Fat. For some reason, I doubt he is suitable for that role. As for Jay Chou, I think for a newcomer he's fine. Not unexpectedly, he's not very capable of showing expression (he somehow seemed to be stuck eternally in his boh chup (nonchalant) look), but if he puts in more effort in his future movies, he'll turn out to be a decent actor. After all, given his huge fan base, most movie producers would like to have him in.

Before I end, I must say that I currently may not be in the most lenient mood to judge movies. Having finished, from renting VCDs, certain critically acclaimed movies like The Constant Gardener and The Pianist, it'd be hard for movies to look good in my eyes. Curse of the Golden Flower is decent, but it could've been better.

No comments: