Before realizing any of that, though, we went to see Curse of the Golden Flower. Which I loved. No real spoilers in my thoughts, below:
It's a grand tragedy - an insanely beautiful, magnificent, ruinous train-wreck of a story; full of many flavors of intrigue and madness. Dramatic, melodramatic, operatic. One of the reviews I read this morning included a quote of a purported chinese proverb: "Gold and jade on the outside, rot and decay on the inside." This describes much of the movie, especially the plotline, perfectly.
And blood! It doesn't have a vast amount of the one vs. one or one vs. many types of martial arts fights we're used to seeing (although there were those, too). It DOES have one of the most grand, awful, bloody battle scenes I've seen in a good long while (if not ever). The blood was everywhere, but not in the way that movies often do it; it wasn't a focus, merely a by-product. It was utterly impersonal in the way that I imagine that it was intended; in the manner that it WOULD have been, in Imperial China. The body count was unimaginable. The ending was a bit too vague and symbolic for my tastes, but I can imagine few really good ways to end the story otherwise, so it was okay.
Despite some historical inaccuracy, this movie was more than anything a gorgeous depiction of the incredible, limitless spectacle that was Imperial China. Opulence doesn't even begin to cover it. Impressive doesn't begin to cover it. The sets were all mind-stunning. The clothing was all eyeball-stunning. Every character was utterly, nearly painfully beautiful. This film ran in the neighborhood of $45,000,000 to make, and every penny was made to count. It was, flat-out, one of the most visually overwhelming films I've ever seen.
If you go to see it, try to remember that during this time period (the early 900's), the rest of the world was barely subsisting, eating meat that was half-raw and half-burnt, wearing rough cloth and rotting animal skins. Okay, okay...I exaggerate. But it *was* the Dark Ages. Most of Europe was a muddled chaos of small wars and incursions. The Byzantine Empire was nearing its end and though it was great in many ways, I don't believe it ever rivaled Imperial China in terms of war skills and technology, food or the arts.
All in all, I'd recommend seeing this, on the largest screen possible. I may well go back and see it again, but sit in the front row this time, so that I can be utterly and completely submerged in the spectacle.