Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu
Ye, Chen Jin, Qin Junjie, Li Man, Ni Dahong
Released By: BVI
Day: 21 December 2006
OUR REVIEW ON THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK BY JAY CHOU
Later Tang Dynasty, 10th Century.
eve of the Chong Yang Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial
Palace. The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns unexpectedly with
his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou). His pretext is to celebrate
the holiday with his family, but given the chilled relations
between the Emperor and the ailing Empress (Gong Li), this
years, the Empress and Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson,
have had an illicit liaison. Feeling trapped, Prince Wan dreams
of escaping the palace with his secret love Chan (Li Man),
the Imperial Doctor's daughter.
Prince Jai, the faithful son, grows worried over the Empress's
health and her obsession with golden chrysanthemums. Could
she be headed down an ominous path?
harbors equally clandestine plans; the Imperial Doctor (Ni
Dahong) is the only one privy to his machinations. When the
Emperor senses a looming threat, he relocates the doctor's
family from the Palace to a remote area.
they are en route, mysterious assassins attack them. Chan
and her mother, Jiang Shi (Chen Jin) are forced back to the
palace. Their return sets off a tumultuous sequence of dark
glamour and grandeur of the festival, ugly secrets are revealed.
As the Imperial Family continues its elaborate charade in
a palatial setting, thousands of golden armored warriors charge
the palace. Who is behind this brutal rebellion? Where do
Prince Jai's loyalties lie? Between love and desire, is there
a final winner?
a moonlit night, thousands of chrysanthemum blossoms are trampled
as blood spills across the Imperial Palace.
It is highly probable that you are one of the many
viewers who laughed when Maggie Cheung deflected tens of thousands
of arrows and remained unhurt in Zhang Yimou’s Hero
(2002). You are also probably one of those who sniggered at
how Zhang Ziyi could miraculously “rise from the dead”
in Zhang’s second martial arts epic House of Flying
assured, the Chinese auteur won’t be tickling your funny
bones too much in his latest star-studded visual extravaganza.
sullen plot is reminiscent of world-renowned playwright Cao
Yu’s Thunderstorm, a modern drama about the complicated
relationships among the members and servants of a well-to-do
family in old China. In this movie, we are brought back in
time to the Tang Dynasty where the Emperor returns home to
his disintegrating Empress and three sons, who each bear an
ulterior motive behind those thick pricey royal robes.
a US$45 million budget, it is only justifiable that the Oscar-nominated
director produced an expensive-looking film like this. And
truth be told, Zhang, who is best known to bring to screen
some very pretty visuals, will not disappoint his fund-providers.
And hopefully he’d impress some Oscar judges too, should
the movie be nominated for any category next February during
the 79th Academy Awards.
the large amount of gold colours in the palace may be too
garish and overused to some, you cannot deny the fact that
a lot of effort was thrown into designing its interior. The
outdoor locations and settings are also fine examples of massive
scale and manpower utilization.
have to see them on the big screen yourself to feel the grandeur
of the film.
the impressive production values, themes of maintaining order
and power in an organized system; as well as those of intrigue,
betrayal and desire run deep in this luscious movie. But alas,
instead of letting these poignant and stark topics taking
the limelight, it was the huge amount of bright golden colours
which over-shone these ideas.
is a pity, because we know how well Zhang can affectingly
bring out these messages, given his classic works like Red
Sorghum (1987), Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and To Live (1994).
The graduate of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy is also
known to cast capable actors in his works to display the most
complex human relations. His recent movies are also increasingly
showcasing some of Asia’s most well-known faces. Chow
Yun-Fat, Gong Li and Jay Chou headline are the chosen ones
to headline his 16th movie.
effortlessly plays the tyrannical ruler with some cold and
unfeeling stares. Gong Li, who was once touted as Zhang’s
muse, injects the right amount of vulnerability and determination
into the role of the suffering queen – without you having
to shift attention away from her well-endowed bosoms.
Horse Best Actor Liu Ye gets our vote for playing the treacherous
eldest son with empathetic confusion and inner tension. Too
bad he does not have the marketing value like the co-star
who plays his younger brother, who sadly, is the weakest link
in the film
who is everybody’s favourite Prince of Mandopop, looks
awkward in his period costume, and clearly do not display
as much weight when acting next to his veteran co-stars.
when the movie comes to an end and Chou does his day job of
singing the soulful theme song "Chrysanthemum Flower
Bed" over the end credits, you’d feel that the
movie has reached an appropriate closure.
hopefully, you’d be reflecting on the lyrics and the
tragic consequences the human heart can bring about.
(Another visually-enticing work from Chinese auteur Zhang
Yimou, with its intriguing themes being overshadowed by the
movie’s star power and luscious images)
Review by John Li