At the centre of Wellington's movie scene stands the magnificent edifice that is the Embassy movie theatre. Any big spectacle movies need to be seen here to be fully appreciated. One runs the risk of falling down the fairly precipitous stairs or being deafened by the superior sound system assaulting your eardrums, but the size, splendour and quality of the place makes it a moviegoers paradise and a wonderful place to sit and relax.
And the perfect cinema in which to enjoy the Curse of the Golden Flower, though to be honest, I wasn't entirely sure what the "curse" actually was. The film itself was overwhelming in its visual spleandour. Every set and costume was a rainbow of colours, with gold the most abundant. And the sheer scale of the human involvement, even if digitally enhanced in the lavish battle sequences and the overwhelming "housekeeping" scenes, was staggering.
I am a big fan of Hero, another of Zhang Yimou's films with its more intimate fight scenes and flights of fancy, so while the scale of the sets and the fights in Curse of the Golden Flower film were incredible, I wasn't completely won over. Mano a mano fights tend to impress me more than the huge, chaotic army on army battles (though, to be honest, space battles almost always win out over everything for me), and there were only one or two brief fights of this type. And storywise the main characters were an unhappy lot most of the time, running around scheming and frowning.
On the big plus side, Curse of the Golden Flower stars the incredible Gong Li, who I will go see in almost any film. While she wasn't give a whole lot to do except look stunning, miserable and pant quite a bit, she lit up the screen whenever she appeared, outshining most of the incredible sets.
Overall, the film was fairly depressing, but worth seeing for the sheer spectacle of the sets and the fight scenes alone. We had a preview for the new Spiderman film and while it does look amazing, a lot of it looks rather fake (funnily enough) whereas with the Curse of the Golden Flower felt like everything was a real physical construction rather than a computer generated simulation. And, seeing this film inside the splendid construction that is the Embassy, felt like the perfect combination.
Verdict: 4 Golden Flowers out of 5