Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Kiss Kiss Zhang Zhang
After Hero and House of Flying Daggers, you'd think that Zhang Yimou would have had his fill of the kind of martial-arts spectacle that enjoyed a renaissance of one with Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a few years back, but he tries to up the ante to D.W. Griffith levels of excess with Curse of the Golden Flower. I thought Hero was lavish but emotionally distant, and I loved Flying Daggers until the seventeenth plot twist too many, which utterly negated everything that had been set up before. Still smarting from that betrayal, I should have been able to identify more than I did with Chow Yun-Fat's cuckolded emperor in Golden Flower, who becomes embroiled in a bloody familial squabble that makes King Lear look like The Family Stone. Some made fun of Ang Lee's wire-work in Crouching Tiger, but I'll take that any day over the thudding sensory overload that Yimou achieves here. (David Chute's review in L.A. Weekly nailed it when he stated that the movie feels oddly like a dry run for Yimou's next project--the 2008 Opening and Closing Ceromonies in Beijing.) There's not much to be invested in when a director capable of erotic power (in Raise the Red Lantern and parts of both Shanghai Triad and Flying Daggers) shows less interest in great camera subjects like Yun-Fat and Gong Li than in his CGI armies and oversaturated colors and assassins soaring through the air. I wish I could raise my arms in rapture over Curse of the Golden Flower but sadly the film placed third in its bid for my attention, behind a good book I'm reading and my cat devising a flanking maneuver toward a bowl of ice cream that would have put Rommel to shame.