Opening in 60 U.S. cities, Sony Pictures Classics' Curse of the Golden Flower performed solidly, it unspectacularly over the weekend. The film, China's costliest ever, earned $489,000 -- or $8,150 per theater. The lush historical drama, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li, opened to mixed reviews. Critics generally praised the dazzling costumes and overall look of the film, but some puzzled over the plot and performances. "It's all too ludicrous to absorb, but it's luscious to watch," Gene Seymour concluded in Newsday. To Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, the movie "is a feast, an over-the-top, all stops-pulled-out Lollapalooza that means to play kitschy and grand at once." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News reached the same conclusion, writing: "The production is so grandly satisfying that even when you're laughing at the screen ... you still can't help but be blown away by the stunning excess of it all." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail called the film "huge on spectacle but as devoid of delight as a Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic." But Bruce Westbrook in the Houston Chronicle simply groused, "Curse of the Golden Flower is cursed, all right -- cursed by bloated spectacle." On the other hand, Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times wrote that the film "achieves a kind of operatic delirium, opening the floodgates of image and melodrama until the line between tragedy and black comedy is all but erased." Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times called it "great news" for admirers of previous Zhang/Gong films (two two parted company ten years ago). In the new film, he wrote, "Zhang celebrates the breathtaking beauty of Gong while fully tapping her resources of talent." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer described it as an "eye-popping masterpiece and also refers to the "operatic emotions conveyed by its cast," while Claudia Puig in USA Today called it "the year's most operatic and visually lavish film." And Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune referred to Curse as "an incredible film" that unfolds "with a dark, stylized brilliance and an almost insane excess that will bewilder a good part of the audience and exhilarate others. ... It really is like almost nothing you've seen before."


25/12/2006