This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
Raise the Red Lantern
China in the 1920's. After her father's death, 19 year old Songlian is forced to marry the much older lord of a powerful family. With three wives already, each living in a separate house within the great castle, there is fierce competition for his attention and the privileges that are gained. This competition gets out of hand...
Film #16 of Project 90
” If you act well, you can fool other people; if you do it badly, you can only fool yourself.”
Zhang Yimou turns his lens toward a world where the happiness and sadness of women rely on the way men act, feel and think, but instead of putting one of those mighty men at the center of his film he bravely focuses on those unfortunate women and calmly shows us the inevitable tragedy of their life. Raise the Red Lantern is the sorrowful story of a group of women’s lives who are trapped in a life build of unfulfilled wishes, unspoken desires, jealousy, failure, humiliation and spoiled prides.
Yimou’s main success is that without getting…
For my two cents, Raise the Red Lantern is Zhang Yimou's best film, with the also excellent To Live running a very close second. Gong Li, playing the newly recruited fourth wife of a wealthy 1920s nobleman, is simply stunning, both in appearance and as a then up-and-coming actress. He Saifei also shines in her performance as the third wife and it is her heartbreaking story that really makes this film the masterpiece that it is.
Centered on the intrigues between the three younger wives and, to a lesser degree, an unlucky servant girl (perhaps the film's most tragic character) who soon finds herself far out of her league, the slowly evolving, but immaculately paced, plot is sure to tug at the heartstrings of even the most jaded of cinephiles. Beautifully shot and perfectly crafted, Raise the Red Lantern is simply a must-see film.
But in the end the choice of re-watching Raise the Red Lantern this weekend is simply due to the death of Roger Ebert, and I felt it appropriate to select one of his chosen Great Movies this time around. I'll also use three quotes from his first review of the movie, the first being the same one I used for my Push 10 notes;
Yimou uses the bold, bright colors of Ju Dou again this time; his film was shot in the classic three-strip Technicolor process, now abandoned by Hollywood, which allows a richness of reds and yellows…
Whistle stop #21, Taiwan (I know it's China, but this way we can sneak in another one from China), on:
I didn’t know anything of director Yimou Zhang going in to this viewing. It was only after that I realized that I had seen him before with the star studded Waxu film, Hero. While I appreciated Hero for its splendid cinematography, I just couldn’t really bite into its WireFu, blade flailing, ‘you disrespect the sword’ story that’s at the heart of Wuxia . I’m sure that’s just me, as I’ve never really been a fan of genre.
Raise the Red Lantern is something else entirely. While the cinematography is still gorgeous, it doesn’t take…
Now, the story in itself, though well told and better acted, would not have been enough for me to love this film. The life of a concubine just doesn't do much for me, Gong Li being magnificent aside.
But. Raise the Red Lantern is a heavywight contender in the category "best cinematography in the history of man". If pressed I'd say that Yimou had a finger in that as well, as his cinematographer hasn't shone this brightly since (but did get his "hands" on a Woody Allen film or two). On top of the cinematography the mise en scene is perfection brought to life, and it gives off this atmospheric sense of the past, with all it's…
I've not much time to write this, so my thoughts are going to be more disjointed than usual:
I was reminded of Bluebeard as I watched this, and ultimately, it did not fail to fulfill the expectation created by that connection. Like in the legend of Bluebeard, multiple generations of women are housed in a castle by a dominant patriarch (though unlike the legend, these women live here all at once). Like in the legend, there is a room that means death. Like in the legend, traditions rule the house. Expectations dictate behavior, and deviation means chaos.
Unlike in the legend, the women of this story are all present in the same time, and their interactions form the bulk of…
Pictorially this is a beautiful film. I don’t mean because it is gloriously shot in stunning colour (although it is) and I don’t mean because sets, costumes and figures are balanced in constantly pleasing compositions (although they are), but because every image is charged with meaning: sets, costumes, colour, figures all being a part of a complex system of meanings. The first shot is a close-up of Songlian (Gong Li) speaking to her off-screen step-mother, agreeing to be married, tears coming to her eyes; then we see her walking to the compound of her new husband, but the rest of the film is set within the courtyards, rooms and roof space of the compound. We are shown a world contained…
Viewed a 35mm print at the Library of Congress's Packard Campus theater.
In stark opposition to the trend in Hong Kong film-making, where directors often tell the stories through a series of rapid cuts, driving the narrative towards its climax, the cinema of Mainland China has a tendency to take it slow.
This is what I loved the most about Raise the Red Lantern. Zhang Yimou lets the story unfold through sumptuously beautiful shots that linger on his characters, letting the audience feel their isolation as the subtle camera movements mirror the slow passage of time. Upheld by a mesmerizing score, the cinematography allows us to sink slowly into the film's world. It takes its time, but a web carefully crafted thread by thread holds its prey just as tight.
A heartbreaking look at kept women in the last years of pre-Communist China, as four mistresses/wives vie for position and power in the household of the rarely seen Master.
"You'll get used to it."
Never has a spiraling descent into madness and hatred looked so beautiful.
kisah tragedi "pergaulan dan perebutan takhta" antar selir berlatar Tiongkok tahun 1920 yang menghipnotis sejak adegan awal hingga akhir film.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
I queued this to my watch-list when I saw Gong-Li in the cast. I had watched a few of Zhang Yimou renowned films and I thought I have seen his best work until I saw this one.
I was not a big admirer of Yimou before watching this film. I never thought his fourth film would be his best work (atleast in my opinion). It was a visually stunning, captivating, absorbing and transcendent experience and that killing smile of Gong Li makes it even better.
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