SYNOPSIS: A young lady, Yang Yuhuan (FAN Bing Bing), leads the dancers to dance for their imperial mourning. Emperor, Tang Ming Huang (Leon LAI) adores her at the first sight. Emperor’s beloved, Imperial concubine Wu (starring CHEN Chong) worrying about the potential threat from Yang, tells a lie that she has chosen her to be the imperial concubine for her son, Prince LI Mao (Chun WU). Yang Yuhuan becomes the wife of Prince LI Mao and the Emperor’s daughter-in-law. After entering the palace, Yang feels no interest in politics and power struggle. However, in order to strive for her son to be the crown prince, Wu defames another three princes that they are going to rebel against the Emperor. The three princes that they are going to rebel against the Emperor. The three princes are punished to death. Finally, the failure of Wu’s conspiracy causes her to commit suicide.
After his much-publicized divorce, Heavenly King Leon Lai seems to disappear from public scrutiny when in actual fact, the HK actor has been dabbling in several movie projects in the Mainland. Most of them unfortunately never reach our shore including Lady Of The Dynasty where he played the role of Emperor Xuanzong.
In this tale about one of the four great beauties of China, Yang Guifei aka Yang Yuhuan, the prolific Fan Bingbing plays the pretty yet tragic Yang. After being picked by Consort Wu (Joan Chen) as the wife for Prince Mao (Wu Chun), Mao unceremoniously dumps Yang later on when he realized his father, Emperor Xuanzong has fallen in love with Yang. Feeling betrayed and heartbroken, Yang retreat to a monastery only to be persuaded by the Emperor to be his concubine.
Lady Of The Dynasty is not merely a troubled project but stood out sorely as one without a solid engaging story and purpose in mind. The entire affair which clocked in at 120 minutes struggles to tell the ill-fated romance between the Emperor and Yang. At the same time, it’s crammed with imperial conspiracies with the numerous crown princes plotting to usurp the throne and other internal conflicts that never get enough exposition.
The turning point of the story involves Yang’s cousin planning a coup with a powerful general, An Lushan. But then the audiences probably have only a faint idea of who Yang’s cousin is let alone General An and their whatever evil plans. The movie even conveniently has an envoy from the Byzantine Empire to narrate the entire proceedings, an attempt to reach out to non-Mandarin speaking audiences. Most important of all, we receive no further insight into the character of Yang Yuhuan except she is a very pretty commoner who excel in dance, music and even a game of polo. History lovers will know that Yang’s beauty is responsible for the downfall of a nation though you won’t really understand what it truly means from this cinematic outing.
Even though he is assisted by big names co-directors Zhang Yimou (Curse of the Golden Flower) and Tian Zhuang Zhuang (The Blue Kite), the storytelling is lackluster for first time helmer, corporate CEO turned director Shiqing. The technical aspects on the other hand are marvelous. With cleavage loving Zhang as co-director, famed Japanese costume designer Emi Wanda blessed the glamorous period costumes with generous revealing cleavages and cinematographer Hou Yong provides grandeur shots of the palace and the vast plains.
Of course despite at the age of 35 in real-life, Fan Bingbing is still believable as Yang who is believed to have a face that put all flowers to shame though the movie never attempt to show her age from 18 to her death at the age of 43. Leon Lai continues to hide behind his facial hair (watch Fire of Conscience and Bodyguards and Assassins) that he forgets how to act. Same goes to the handsome Wu Chun. Wu Gang is excellent as Eunuch Gao Lishi and Joan Chen’s delicious portrayal of Consort Wu is given an early exit.
Lady Of The Dynasty is a disappointing outing for fans of period dramas especially it’s done on such a lavish scale. Neither dramatic nor riveting, it’s often dull and hardly reeks of any chemistry or passion between the two leads. There’s a supposedly deleted scene, which feature a titillating sex scene on a horse but I doubt it’s going to soup up the eroticism or the half-baked character arc of Yang.
The usage of rich colors and lush production design provides the eye candy in the visual department and the outdated Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a shame in this era.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee