Curse of the Golden Flower

Poison is ugly in any color!

Reviewed by: Alicia Glass
Published on: February 27, 2022 (URL is not
Available on: Netflix
Content release date: 2007-01-12

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Yimou Zhang

Review Rating: 9

Intrigue abounds in the Forbidden City: the Emperor plots against the Empress, the Empress plots against everyone, and the Crown Princes (and their legions of minions) all have to choose sides!

So the whole thing starts off with the Emperor poisoning the Empress. Apparently he’s been doing this for years now, but only recently decided to step it up to an outright “soon she’ll be dead” manner. And of course the Empress knows about this. But who told her? Why, a spy in the palace. And this spy isn’t just any spy, but has plots of her own to unfold. The three Crown Princes each have plots of their own and divided loyalties. The Chrysanthemum Festival is in three days, and each pivotal character promises to bring a surprise to the Festival, even if it’s their last.

Even if you’re a “Plot? We don’t need no stinkin plot!” kind of person, this movie is astounding for one particular reason: color. The hallways of the Forbidden City are lined with shiny rainbows; a battalion of servants all dress alike in the finest purples and blues; golden chrysanthemums scream opulence from everywhere; and the culminating scene where the Crown Prince’s golden chrysanthemum-laden troops crash headlong into the black-clad warriors of the Emperor is a marvelous riot of color in a very visual good-versus-evil kind of way.

The Empress is a fine mix of barely contained rage and unshakable poise, a credit to Gong Li’s acting talent once again. (See Memoirs of a Geisha for more.) It’s interesting to see Chow Yun Fat play what could be considered a bad guy, the Emperor. We’re used to seeing him run around in neat costumes, embroiled in fight scenes that boggle the laws of physics and all. But this movie actually lets Fat’s acting talents shine, even in that restrained Chinese way.

No, the Empress isn’t actually committing incest when she speaks with one of the Crown Princes about being intimate for the last three years. All sons born to the Emperor, whether by concubines or his Empress, were considered to be the Empress’ sons. Just thought I’d clear that up.

A story worth reliving, a movie worth owning, Curse of the Golden Flower is a triumph of cinema!

Pick a side to back with Curse of the Golden Flower on Netflix!