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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Richard Gallagher, Mar 25, 2007.

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  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    [​IMG]

    Curse of the Golden Flower




    Studio: Sony
    Year: 2006
    Rated: R
    Length: 114 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
    Languages: English (dubbed) Dolby Digital 5.1, Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French



    The Program

    Zhang Yimou, the director of such films as House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and Shanghai Triad, delivers a sumptuous and spectacular historical epic with Curse of the Golden Flower, starring Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li. It combines elements of imperial intrigue, martial arts and Shakespearian tragedy, and it does so in dazzling fashion.

    The story takes place in the 10th Century, during what would prove to be the final years of the Tang Dynasty. The Imperial Family consists of the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat), the Empress (Gong Li), the Crown Prince (Liu Ye), and the Emperor’s two other sons, Prince Jai (Jay Chou) and Prince Yu (Junjie Qin). The family is reuniting for the Chrysanthemum Festival, the chrysanthemum being the “golden flower” of the title.

    The film’s intrigue arises from the fact that each member of the Imperial Family is hiding secrets from the others. The Empress is the Emperor’s second wife; the first, who was the birth mother of the Crown Prince, is dead. The Emperor then married the current Empress, but it appears that his motive for marrying her was primarily political. The Empress is essentially estranged from the Emperor, but, in accordance with the customs of the times, she continues to do his bidding. His control over her includes ordering her to take medication hourly, even though she begins to believe that the medication is doing her more harm than good. At the same time, she has been carrying on a three-year affair with her stepson, the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince in turn has fallen in love with Chan (Li Man), the daughter of the Imperial Physician. It is the Imperial Physician who prepares the Empress’ medication.

    The conflicts within the Imperial Family set the stage for some truly sensational action scenes involving impressive swordplay, outrageous martial arts, and a climatic battle scene which is both spectacular and extremely violent. However, do not be misled. This is a dramatic film with action scenes, not an action film per se.

    Chow Yun Fat is perfectly cast as the Emperor, projecting the strength and ruthlessness of a man who values power and control above all else. Gong Li has for years been considered Asia’s greatest actress, and this film demonstrates that her reputation is well-deserved. The Empress is really the central character in this film, and Gong Li plays the part with complete conviction.

    Gong Li, incidentally, once had a long-term romance with director Zhang Yimou. They broke up in 1995 and many observers believed that they would never again work together. This film marks their first collaboration since Shanghai Triad.

    Curse of the Golden Flower is adapted from a play which is said to be based upon fact. Those who prefer their historical dramas to be played straight may be put off by the battle scenes, which are in fact unrealistically over the top. Other than that caveat, I found the film to be thoroughly involving and thrilling.

    The Video

    The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of Curse of the Golden Flower is drop-dead gorgeous. The colors, including deep golds and reds, are exceptionally vibrant. The image is sharp throughout, colors and flesh tones appear to be accurate, and shadow detail is excellent. The cinematography is stunning, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The set design – in particular, the Imperial Palace – is stunning.

    The Audio

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is, from the opening scene, enveloping and involving. The surround sound is extremely effective and well-defined. The clash of swords and the “whoosh” of arrows and spears during the fight scenes provide a real sense of immediacy. The lush and powerful orchestral score is also used to great advantage. When assassins appear from above, they sound like they are descending from the viewer’s ceiling.

    The film can be viewed in Chinese with English subtitles or in dubbed English. Both soundtracks are in Dolby Digital 5.1. The English subtitles appear to provide a more accurate translation of the dialogue, but for those who prefer to avoid subtitles, the dubbing is done very well. There are also French subtitles.

    The Supplements

    The extras include a 22-minute “making of” featurette entitled “Secrets Within.” Director Zhang Yimou talks about Chinese culture and history, as well as what he hoped to accomplish while he was making the film. He also sings the praises of his actors, discusses the costume and set design, and talks about how the action scenes were filmed. Chow Yun Fat sounds positively giddy about having had the opportunity to play opposite Gong Li.

    There is also a short featurette which consists of clips from interviews conducted at the film’s premiere in Los Angeles.

    Other Features

    Scene selection is available from the main menu. The DVD also includes trailers for ten other films, including Offside, Black Book, House of Flying Daggers, Volver and American Hardcore.

    The Final Analysis

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and Sony has done it justice with a first-rate DVD presentation. I should point out that some viewers who loved House of Flying Daggers were disappointed by Curse of the Golden Flower. Although this film contains some of the martial arts aspects of House of Flying Daggers, this is not primarily a marital arts film. Rather, it is an historical drama which contains elements of martial arts.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Cambridge Audio DVD-89 DVD player
    Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: March 27, 2007
     
  2. ToddJ

    ToddJ Second Unit

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    great review! would you happen to have any screenshots?
     
  3. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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  4. Allan^L

    Allan^L Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone know if any other DVD regions have a better version? I saw this in theatres and liked it quite a bit.
     
  5. Mikael Soderholm

    Mikael Soderholm Supporting Actor

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    Well, better or not, I bought the region 3 version, it is NTSC and has a dts track in the original language (and english subs). It seems to have the same extras as the R1. It looked good on my 77" screen, projected by a Panasonic AE700 fed 720p over HDMI from a Panasonic S97 player.
     
  6. Barry_B_B

    Barry_B_B Second Unit

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  7. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    I really want to see this but I think I am going to wait for the upcoming Blu-Ray.
     
  8. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    I've no doubt that it will look truly spectacular on Blu-Ray.
     
  9. Michael Warner

    Michael Warner Supporting Actor

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    I'm planning to watch it this weekend but I'm wondering if Sony is intentionally crippling the video quality to amp up the Blu-Ray release. This two-hour movie is crammed into what is essentially a single layer on the DVD (4.2GB) and sports two DD5.1 soundtracks. While I'm sure it will look good would it have looked better at a higher bitrate? I was just surprised when I saw how small the filesize was for the movie itself.
     
  10. Barry_B_B

    Barry_B_B Second Unit

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    In reading the review for Happy Feet and seeing the same poor review for video, I'm wondering if this is industry-wide? If so, its a misguided attempt to me; I'll just go back to collecting the movies from my LONG list of wants. Looks like I renewed my Netflix subscription at the right time! [​IMG]
     
  11. Yumbo

    Yumbo Screenwriter

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    Sound was a bit surround heavy at times.
    Colours were plentiful.
    Some soft scenes on the long shots.
    The making of looked clearer.
    Wait for the BD if you have a player.
    Action was realistic and impressive, compared to the fantasy nature of previous 2 movies.

    And yes, the decolatage was distracting if that's your persuasion.
     
  12. Demis G

    Demis G Second Unit

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  13. mayurarohtagi

    mayurarohtagi Auditioning

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    Thanks,
    Here is various categories such as love/Romance, Birthday/Anniversary, Wedding/Engagement, Newborn, Entrance/Graduation, Thanks, Parents` Day etc. Flowers To Korea
     

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