Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Capsule Review: Raise The Red Lantern (1991)

An almost painfully beautiful film from director Zhang Yimou (Hero), who beautifully presents the story of the young Songlian (the ravishing Gong Li) who, unable to afford to return to university, becomes the fourth concubine of the wealthy Chen family. While initially she rebels against the rigid traditions and in-fighting among the other "mistresses", she soon finds herself initiating in petty rivalries and competing for minor rewards - the "master" chooses his romantic partner for the night by raising a red lantern by her doorway, and the recipient gets temporary preferential treatment. Things turn dark quickly, with Songlian encountering multiple tragedies before events come - rather depressingly - to an end. Certainly not a feel good film, and it's central theme seems at odds with the message presented by Hero, but it's beautifully shot and acted, and features a wonderful score by Zhao Jiping.

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