Yellow chrysanthemums splash the screen in director Zhang Yimous cross between a martial arts epic and soap opera-like melodrama about class and power struggles.
In the Tenth century Later Tang Dynasty, theres an undercurrent of discontent behind the massive red doors of the Imperial Palace. On the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns with his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), to celebrate the holiday – and to be sure that his estranged wife, the ailing Empress (Gong Li), continues to take daily doses of her special herbal medicine that the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong) has secretly laced with a Persian fungus that will make her insane.Intrigue thickens since shes having a clandestine affair with the Emperors oldest son from a previous marriage, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), who then betrays her with Chan (Li Man), the Imperial Doctors pretty daughter. Suddenly, a mysterious woman appears, telling the Empress of the duplicitous plot against her. Meanwhile, the third and youngest son, Prince Yu (Qin Junjie,) has his own ambitions. Amid the dysfunctional family chaos, the Empress diligently embroiders golden chrysanthemums which take on an ominous significance when she attempts to stage a coup.
Best known for House of Flying Daggers and Hero, Zhang Yimou, along with Wu Nan and Bian Zhihong attempted to adapt one of Chinas most acclaimed plays, Cao Yus Thunder Storm, about the disintegration of a wealthy industrialists family. But its Yimous cinematographer Zhao Xoadomg, production designer Huo Tingxiao and action director Tony Ching Siu-Tung who dazzle with opulent palace settings and acrobatic, CGI-enhanced swordplay. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Curse of the Golden Flower blossoms into a sumptuous 7. Its lurid, lavish eye-candy.