PictureCurse of the Golden Flower comes to us on Blu-ray in its original theatrical 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, presented complete with a sumptuous 1080p High Definition rendition. The detail looks excellent throughout, which is particularly important for this lavish, epic period piece, with all of its Chinese Dynasty style, costumes and settings. You can practically distinguish the individual grey hairs on the Emperor's head, with very little softness over the runtime (only a few more noticeable moments) and the minimum amount of negligible grain, only apparent during some of the more high contrast scenes. The colour scheme is extremely broad, given the setting, with bright, shiny golds and reds dominating the affair. The rainbow stained glass and ridiculously gaudy sets would be totally out of place in any other movie, and denote a complete lack of taste, but here they suit the affair and the High Definition rendition allows them to shine in all their glory. Black levels are not quite as perfect as I would have hoped for, but we still get decent enough shadowing and overall this is a superior presentation for the lavish production.
SoundFor this Blu-ray release of Curse of the Golden Flower, we get the wonderful aural benefit of Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio in the movie's original Chinese language. Dialogue, depending on how much Mandarin you know, is clear and coherent throughout, dominating the frontal array. The effects range is quite broad, giving the surrounds plenty to do with swords slicing across the screen, ninjas whizzing down ropes and marching armies shaking the ground. The final confrontation offers plenty of clanking armour and clashing metal for the mix to show off. The score is grand and sweeping, although not particularly memorable, but it is often immersive thanks to good surround use. Although the LFE channel did not get quite as much use as I would have hoped for, it is certainly used to good effect at key points in the production. Overall it is a superior sonic rendition, far better than the standard 5.1 alternative - and don't even go near the dodgy English dub, especially with such superb subtitles on offer (either the translator is one of the best around, or he swallowed an English thesaurus).
ExtrasThis Blu-ray release has only two Extras. Secrets Within is a 20-minute Making-Of Featurette that has interviews with the Director and Cast, revealing the motivations behind the characterisations, the story and set design and generally how they put the whole production together. Some are subtitled (like the Gong Li's and the Director's contributions), whilst others are in English (Chow Yun-Fat), but the benefit of any of these snippets is seriously marred by the unnecessary participation of irritating voiceover man throughout. We get some behind the scenes footage of the actors preparing, being outfitted in the costumes and so forth, as well as b-roll shots of some of the epic battles being choreographed, and a few nice revelations both in terms of the story and the production itself, and overall fans of the movie should tolerate check this out (although perhaps the only solution to voiceover man is to mute the whole damn thing).
There is also a very brief, two-and-a-half-minute look at the Los Angeles Premiere, with the Director's comments at the Premiere dubbed over and used to narrate snippets from the final movie. Finally we get a bunch of trailers - including House of Flying Daggers, Kung Fu Hustle, Stranger Than Fiction, Casino Royale and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
VerdictCurse of the Golden Flower is the weakest of Director Zhang Yimou's wushu trilogy, with Hero as my personal favourite. Still, it is a visual feast to say the least, and quite an enjoyable, pretty affair to engage your time, despite some dubious characters and contrived plot-lines. The video presentation is superb, as we only expect from High Definition, and the uncompressed audio puts this Blu-ray release ahead of any future HD versions. Add to that a couple of minimal extras and you have a package that will sit well besides your Blu-ray copy of House of Flying Daggers. Wushu newcomers might want to check out the other two (and the superior Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) first before completing the trilogy.
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