Curse Of The Golden Flower

Ever since Zhang Yimou went digital with Hero (2002), his color coding and sense of spectacle have been devalued by a certain dehumanizing process; this historical adventure proves he still has an eye for striking images, but his formalism brings steadily diminishing returns, especially when it involves crowds of insectlike warriors. Adapted from a 1930s play, this stars Gong Li (at her most tremulous and sweaty) and Chow Yun-fat (miscast) as an empress and emperor of the Tung dynasty, but not even they can make much of its tragic story seething with decadent palace intrigues. The movie has plenty to engage one’s interest but little to sustain it. In Mandarin with subtitles. R, 114 min. (JR)

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