Curse of the Golden Flower
By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Violent, operatic saga of cruelty and revenge.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The emperor and empress plot against each another, using their children as pawns; corruption in palace among royals and servants; violent showdown leaves everyone hurt or dead.
Violence & Scariness
The emperor is poisoning his wife with a fungus in her medicine (she coughs and faints occasionally); swordplay is swift, bloody, and climactic; characters have scars/brands indicating previous abuses; some one-on-one fighting (punching, slapping, kicking); assault by army of assassins features flaming arrows, hooks, spears, knives, and swords; a character stabs himself in the throat (he lives, with bloody bandages visible in later scenes); a character commits suicide by slashing his own throat (gruesome but brief).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The empress is having an affair with her stepson; Wan and Chan have secret affair (they're surprised while half-dressed); the empress' cleavage is frequently visible.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids who liked Hero or House of Flying Daggers will want to see this movie. But while Zhang Yimou directed all of them, this new film is very different -- it's less focused on the martial arts action than on adult themes like betrayal and revenge. Violence includes poisoning, swordfights, knifings, and armies of assassins mustered for combat on palace. There are plenty of bloody results all around.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER follows the disintegration of a Chinese emperor's family during the 10th century. The beautiful Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) is depressed by her isolation and her husband's obvious disdain for her. She spends her time planning the Chrysanthemum Festival, which is always a grand celebration -- but this year, no one feels like celebrating. Her depression is partly caused by the fact that Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat) has been poisoning her soup. He may or may not be aware that she's been having an affair with Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), his son by his long-gone first wife. Then, the empress learns that her stepson/lover has fallen for Chan (Li Man), the daughter of the Imperial doctor (Ni Dahongand), whose own wife (Chen Jin) has a grudge against the emperor. The entanglements eventually come to a head, affecting the royal couple's two younger boys -- Prince Jai (Jay Chou) and Prince Yu (Qin Junjie) -- who are trying to prove themselves to their father while also looking after their mother (at least at first). As the various betrayals are discovered, the plots turn increasingly dire, with entire armies of assassins arrayed against each another.
Is It Any Good?
Wildly colorful and extravagantly emotional, Curse of the Golden Flower has sumptuous sets, splendiferous royal costumes, and roiling familial emotions. The palace in the capital city is huge, with long hallways, vast windows, and hundreds of rooms and servants. Too bad that everyone in sight despises, distrusts, or seeks brutal vengeance against someone else. They're a very unhappy lot indeed. The climactic battle scenes are stunning, with bright yellow chrysanthemums underfoot, spectacular wuxia swordplay, and plenty of flowing blood.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the tension among the family members. How do jealousy and greed lead to betrayal? Does the film make a judgment about which of the characters is the most guilty, or do they all seem equally culpable? How do parents use their children against one another? How does the movie's grand display -- bright colors, sweeping costumes, dramatic entrances -- suggest opera? If you've seen the director's other movies, how does this one compare? Why do you think it's focused less on action and more on revenge?
- In theaters: December 21, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2007
- Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou
- Director: Zhang Yimou
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence
- Last updated: July 3, 2022
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