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Monday, June 30, 2008


An aging, but still vital King & Queen are at each other’s throats; the three sons are in competition for the succession; and a major national holiday looms forebodingly; shall we hang the holly . . . or each other? Wait, that’s THE LION IN WINTER and this is another Chinese historical epic from helmer Zhang Yimou. Chow Yun Fat & Gong Li are the Emperor & Empress, but she’s not the birth mother which is a good thing since she’s dallied with one of her ‘sons.’ Now, the Emperor has commanded the royal physician to poison her (she knows all about it) and the Empress is plotting a military coup (he knows all about it). So when the wife of the palace doc turns out to be the long lost birth mother, all hell breaks loose in some spectacularly staged warfare set inside the confines of the enormous palace grounds. (The Emperor has a special detachment of men all costumed as Irma Vep!) It’s all exciting and gorgeous to look at, if not always perfectly clear, but Yimou can’t properly integrate the sweeping action sequences with the intra-familial drama. Still, it’s quite an eyeful.

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