Sunday, January 21, 2007

Curse of the Psychedelic Colors

We saw Curse of the Golden Flower last night (and just for the record, regarding the link, I know there are lots of movie databases out there with more detailed info than Yahoo--but I love the "view trailer" feature at Yahoo, so that's the link I'm likely to include for most movies--you can navigate yourself to your own favorite).

Three words: What the hell?! Bill Engvall says, if you want to feel better about your own family, just go to the state fair. Better yet, see this movie.

We loved Hero and House of Flying Daggers, (the brilliance of the color in the latter truly merited the word "breathtaking." So, this newest movie from director Yimou Zhang seemed a good bet. But . . .

In truth, any confusion about the actual storyline is a fault that probably lies with the viewer. Perhaps, to a Chinese audience, this story is as familiar as Paul Revere's ride is to Yanks and needs little introduction. Not so for a western audience though. I'm still not sure how Jai dies at the end. By his own hand? the hand of the guard behind him? his father's?

And while the color was just as vivid, it was also, unfortunately, over the top. Even if I could be convinced that such pigments existed at the end of the 10th century AD, I wouldn't want to be so awash in them. If "brilliant" is the operative word for the colors in the earlier two works most likely familiar to western audiences, then "psychedelic" seems the more appropriate term for this newest venture. They set the mood, I'm sure, but I'm not sure what mood that's supposed to be exactly. Excess? Overindulgence? What, exactly?

So, my bottom line: B-. That high, because, as usual, Zhang's direction, Gong Li's and Chow Yun-Fat's acting, and a cast of non-computer-generated thousands, can hardly help yielding a feast for the senses. But it lost points in my book for confusing me more than once (again, probably my fault) and for overwhelming my eyes with too much color in too psychedelic a palate. The nearest analogy I can think of would be ending an evening by drinking way too many fancy martinis from the drink menu at 15C--each would be a rather astonishing thing in its own right, passing over the tongue, but when they all merge at the south end of the esophagus, the final result is likely to be queasy at best, emetic at worst.