07 February 2007

The Dragon In Winter

Kate Hepburn as Eleanor of AquitaineColour me dense: not too long ago, I described Curse of the Golden Flower as "a cross between the Wars of the Roses with The Wars of The Roses." Today, however, with a kind of dear Gawd I'm such a motherforking idiot clarity, I recognized the real source-text (or cultural antecedent) for it. Golden Flower is really just a radical revision of The Lion In Winter. Both stories focus on an extended personal and political battle between a king and his wife, the queen in both basically imprisoned by her husband, and the various machinations worked on the three sons in the waging of that battle. One son, of course, has great military prowess and has his eye on the throne, though he's not the designated heir; the favoured son, and crown prince, is turbulent and childish and perhaps the most heavily compromised one of the lot; and the third son, the largely forgotten and disdained son, has his own aspirations, despite his apparent disconnect from the primary proceedings. Zhang Yimou's version, of course, amps up the violence and recasts the story as grand tragedy, where the original focused on the domestic sadomasochism more typical of an Edward Albee play. But there it is, our Golden Flower, structurally just The Lion In Winter with a Polonius-Ophelia subplot tacked on for good measure.

Ah, so much for my critical acumen. I should have caught the similarity right away, but didn't, so distracted was I by all the Shakespearean suggestions. I must be getting rusty. Excuse me while I sneak into a corner and beat myself half to death with my cluelessness. In a word: D'Oh!

For the record, those of you that haven't seen The Lion In Winter should do so as soon as you can. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn are terrific as Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some of you will get a kick out seeing Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton in their first film roles. The dialogue alone is worth the trip to the video store.

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