25 November 2015
Film review: Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), by Zhang Yimou, ****
From Zhang Yimou, the Director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, comes a stunning epic about the folly of war and the disintegration of one family under the weight of unrequited love, unforgivable betrayals, and a never-ending thirst for power.
On the eve of the Chong Yong Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace and when the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) unexpectedly returns to his Empress (Gong Li) and two sons, the tension is clear in his lavish kingdom. His absence has given rise to illicit love affairs, dangerous alliances, and malicious conspiracies; all of which threaten to overthrow his power.
However, it may well be the Emperor’s own dark secret that threatens him most of all. As the secrets of the Imperial family unravel against this backdrop of breathtaking opulence and grandeur, an attack on the Palace by myriad armoured warriors results in a spectacular climax wrought with thrilling action and epic tragedy.
Another grand movie by Zhang Yimou with a sure-fire couple of protagonists in Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li). It will be a masterpiece for the lovers of wuxia and, more generally, of Chinese epic films. I am not, but liked the movie as well for the majestic historical reconstruction (a whole new Forbidden City) and marvellous costumes. Grand scenes of battle, with over one thousand extras (appropriately recruited in the Chinese army!) are memorable if utterly unrealistic.
What a sad life in the palace. From the Emperor to the most humble of servants, everyone is watching everyone else, there is no privacy, no trust, no happiness really. I can't remember anyone smiling in this film! It makes you thank your fate for not being born a royalty in medieval China!
The western blurb for the movie (but not the Chinese) advertises it as taking place in the period of the late Tang dynasty. I was a bit disappointed because I expected more of a historical film about the Tang dynasty. I was led to think of this as a historical fiction, and it really is not.
See my selection of movies on China here in this blog.
You can buy the film here. Other films by Zhang Yimou here.
In the US and worldwide buy it here:
If you liked it, you may wish to look at other films by Zhang Yimou
Location: Beijing, Beijing, China
14 November 2015
Film review: Red Obsession (2013) by David Roach and Warwick Ross, ****
Red Obsession is a film about power, passion and the fine wine game. Something unprecedented is happening to the fine wine market and that something is China. While the dragon economy could bring untold wealth to the revered wine-making region, the terms of engagement are different from any other customer in the past. This market is young, voracious and unpredictable. Demand is massively outstripping supply. The product is finite and this new client wants it all. For better or worse, Bordeaux is hitching itself to this new, infinitely wealthy client. RED OBSESSION sets out to explore this phenomenon and the link between China and Bordeaux.
A most interesting documentary on the rise of wine in Chinese society. The Chinese drank less than one bottle of wine each per year until just a few years ago. They have recently discovered wine. Not just to drink it, but to show it off, to display as a status symbol, and to invest in. In the past the Americans, and then the Japanese, similarly impacted the world of wine, but the sheer scale of the Chinese onslaught is greater by an order of magnitude. One Chinese billionaire who made his fortune selling sex toys has no qualms admitting in front of a camera that he prefers a bottle of great wine to great sex.
I was also pleased to see that some of the most prominent Chinese wine collectors seem to appreciate cigars and pipe smoking but not cigarettes. I can certainly sympathize with that. Great wine drinkers think alike!
While China is furiously planting new vineyards in regions with appropriate terroir and climate, and is already the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, the fascination of prestigiuous Bordeaux makes them spend billions on the most recognizable brands of Chateaux. This is driving the market crazy and may well portend a bubble in the making. Counterfeiting of expensive wines, like of so many other luxury products, is widespread.
It is going to be interesting to see how this pays out. China will soon be the largest producer of wine as well as the largest consumer. It will decisively affect both demand and supply. For now supply is more quantity than quality: local wines are mediocre (with some notable exception) and mostly for local consumption. Demand, on the other hand, is more focussed on quality, with rich Chinese buying only the best of the best. The global wine market is undergoing a Chinese revolution.
See my selection of movies on China on this blog.
Location: Bordeaux, France
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