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Having established himself in the 1990s as one of China’s leading directors, Zhang Yimou spent the past decade making two types of film: small, contemporary and supremely sentimental ones such as “The Road Home” and “Happy Times,” or big, lavish, action-packed period-epics like “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers.”

Zhang’s latest, “Curse of the Golden Flower” (opening in Japan as “Ouhi no Monsho”) sees him in the latter mode, albeit with diminishing returns. Zhang started on this road after witnessing the success of Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” His first wuxia (martial arts) film “Hero,” coming after a career’s worth of serious dramas, pulsed with the sheer exuberance of playing with a new form.

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