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Klaus Maria Brandauer,
In 1930s China a young woman is sent by her father to marry the leprous owner of a winery. In the nearby red sorghum fields she falls for one of his servants. When the master dies she finds herself inheriting the isolated business. Written by
Brian Rawnsley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here is a solid film by Yimou Zhang, from the fifth generation of Chinese directors. Red Sorghum is told as a flashback, a narration by the main character's grandson. Gong Li plays an attractive lower-class Chinese woman who is sent, against her will, to be married to an old leper who runs a winery.
The story takes place on the eve of the Japanese occupation before World War II and later features some ugly scenes from their invasion. There is an underlying motif regarding feminism (a lot of this generation of Chinese directors seemed to deal with this) and the inability of females to be even remotely empowered in this time and place. I enjoyed seeing the class boundaries and customs of late-Qing China, the occasionally goofy sense of humor, and the almost lawless, ruthless communities out in the desert.
The film takes place in only a handful of locations, but features some gorgeous cinematography. The vibrant red colors (perhaps an allusion to Communist rule and foreshadowing bloodshed? It's hard to tell whether this film is for or against Communist China) are illustrated vividly by the sorghum wine and the long views of the sun setting across the Chinese desert. The pacing is slow but efficient and the story is a memorable one.
It's quite indisputable (to me, at least!) that, although this was Yimou Zhang's first film, it's loads better than his later movies, "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers". Hopefully one day he'll catch up to where he started.
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