925 A.D. T'ang...
It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore
Last night my friends and I went to see Curse of the Golden Flower, a new Chinese movie with Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li and a cast of millions. Waiting to purchase tickets, an older man in line said, "That Chinese movie...what's it called?" Why it's real name is Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia. The same man, after seeing his modern printout of a ticket said, "That's it? THAT'S the ticket? 'Fraid so, Elder Fart Eye, and this was only a prelude to many more questions that came to mind while watching this gawdy epic. We talked about it walking back to the car.
1) This could have been King Lear, only with sons instead of daughters, and China instead of England and the Emperor isn't about to abdicate, not without busting a few caps and a few hundred thousand asses.
2) The Emperor has ordered a poisonous tisane disguised as anemia medicine for the Empresses' consumption on an hourly basis. There is a highly stylized ritual involving the servants preparing this brew for her. It seemed to give her hot flashes, because she keeps breaking out into a sweat. I half expected to see James Brown wiggle onto the scene and burst into "Cold Sweat." We wondered later. This was China, right? Where they use china? So why was she always drinking out of a glass? One friend said in a Yiddish accent, "A nice glass tea."
3) The interior of the Imperial Palace had gaudy pillars of hot pink, neon yellow and a lurid peacock blue. In other words a rainbow effect, plus eunuchs mincing around in women's robes and bright red lipstick announcing the approach of the Hour of the Dragon. And gold. My God, the gold. Was there ever a Bling Dynasty? In several scenes the Empress was busy jamming elaborate gold hair ornaments in place. Seems to me she would have had servants doing that for her. Plus you often saw her acrylic nails covered in flower designs. That would be done by the Honorable Manicurist of Polymer Powder?
3) Oh yeah. The feet. The jiggling women in this movie besides all wearing push it up and out Wonderbras also wore boxy fabric slippers that appeared from a distance to be running shoes. I actually looked it up last night: as early as the T'ang Dynasty, when this movie was set, women did have bound peds to have that perfect Lotus Foot, considered so erotic and desirable, unlike the babes pounding the Forbidden City pavement in this flick.
4) A key theme in the film is the approach of the Chrysanthemum Festival (the Golden Flower of the movies' name) which seems to be a T'ang Dynasty dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner. The family gathers around the table where they try to poison one another or commit suicide. The son's are fighting over who gets to be Emperor once Daddy's dead and Mom plays favorites. "You love Second Brother more than me!"
5) Everyone knows martial arts. The Emperor, his sons, his first wife who's suppose to be dead, the royal physician...and speaking of the royal physician, when not busy preparing poisons, he's massaging the Emperor's lower back pain (gold armor is killer) then putting him in a schvitz bath. (Memo to self: do not consume Persian black fungus. You will lose all mental faculties after ingesting this for a period of two months.)