Secrets of incest, manipulation and the thirst for the throne are revealed in the royal family of 10th century China in advance of the chrysanthemum festival. Gong Li ("Memoirs of a Geisha," "Miami Vice") stars.
Big question: Is "Curse of the Golden Flower" as exciting and passionate as writer-director Zhang Yimou's last action flick, "House of Flying Daggers"?
Skip it: Neither the script nor the performances allow much feeling to come from this story of people imprisoned by tradition. "Curse of the Golden Flower" takes way too long to bloom, and even then it's several petals short of a memorable Chinese tragedy.
Catch it: If set design is your favorite category at the Oscars. The visuals are undeniably gorgeous, so colorful that some parts of "Curse of the Golden Flower" look like a Chinese restaurant in the Wonka factory.
Bottom line: Yimou's movies always look incredible, but this time around his work seems more like something to appreciate than to enjoy. It's a glorious work of art without nearly enough dramatic interest.
Bonus: Be thankful that our culture doesn't brand a tattoo on our face for breaking moral laws. Hey, Mike Tyson, what's your excuse?
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'Curse of the Golden Flower'
Directed by Zhang Yimou; written by Yimou, Wu Nan, Bian Zhihong; photographed by Zhao Xiaoding; edited by Cheng Long; production designed by Huo Tingxiao; music by Shigeru Umebayashi; produced by Bill Kong, Zhang Weiping. In Chinese, with English subtitles. A Sony Pictures Classics release; opens Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema; Landmark's Renaissance Place Cinema, Highland Park; AMC River East 21; and Century CineArts, Evanston. Running time: 1:54. MPAA rating: R (for violence).
The Emperor - Chow Yun Fat
The Empress - Gong Li
Prince Jai - Jay Chou
Crown Prince Wan - Liu Ye
Imperial doctor's wife - Chen Jin
Imperial doctor - Ni Dahong
Chan - Li Man
Prince Yu - Qin Junjie