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Ju Dou (1990)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Romance  |  April 1991 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 5,364 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 27 critic

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband's nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband's heir without ... See full summary »

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Title: Ju Dou (1990)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ma Chong
Zhijun Cong
Wu Fa
...
Jia Jin
Baotian Li ...
Wei Li ...
Xingli Niu
Yang Qianbin
Zhang Yi ...
Tianbai as child
Jia Zhaoji
Ji-an Zheng ...
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Storyline

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband's nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband's heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy. Filmed in glowing technicolour, this tale of romantic and familial love in the face of unbreakable tradition is more universal than its setting. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

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Genres:

Drama | Mystery | Romance

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Release Date:

April 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amor E Sedução  »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,986,433 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A strange one to judge
24 October 2000 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

When watching Ju Dou it suddenly occurred to me that although Zhang Yimou is known for his political arguments the film seems to breathe through a warm and loving hope from Tianqing and Ju Dou. The political references and damnation of the treatment of women resonate but I found myself taking this hope theme and putting it out front. The beauty of the photography is unmatched, in particular the stunning shot of Tianqing working in the dye mill with the whole background illuminated with the suns reddened glare but there is the lack of visual plausibility, being the narrow minded baffoon that I am, the first thought to enter my head was that Ju Dou would never go for Tianqing, look how skinny and ugly the guy is! But the plausibility is increased once they get it together due to their quality performances, Gong Li's fragile "wolf" is probably one of the most mesmerising performances in history. It is truly hypnotic, and Li Baotian shows the contradictory nature of Tianqing, especially his tortured obedience in front of his "uncle" and his masculine dependence on Ju Dou that gives the film so much heart, despite his obvious lack of meat.

What isn't so great is the episodic feel that is helped none by the titles indicating the passage of time. Surely this could have been achieved visually, even on a small budget. Pacing feels a little disjointed, probably because the inciting incident happens quite a long way into the film, but maybe I got that and the act climax confused, note: must watch again.

Small discrepancies aside, my problem is with the narrative. Of course film can do more than to tell a story, but I feel that when you start one you should tell it properly and with skill. Of course, Ju Dou is one Zhang's earliest films and none of his later films that I have seen have suffered from this, but then again they do not portray a claustrophobic feeling so well in streets and houses as well as showing the vastness of the country itself. A visual metaphor for the people being close, feeling each other's pain and joy, with the money, the government for instance, far away, unable, or not wanting to see the plight of the citizens.

And on a final note, the uncle's mean streak and his black heart did not make me feel any less sorry for him in the middle of the film, which although adds a little hostility to Ju Dou, gives us another wonderful character in the film. No one is perfect.

I would highly recommend Ju Dou to all fans of Chinese cinema, especially those who prefer this to the action movies they produce by the bucket load in Hong Kong and are rarely any good unless they star Jet Li, or anyone who has a love of ambience in their movies. This achieves it ten fold.

Now I'm off to see Zhang Yimou's latest, 'The Road Home' in London. High expectations but not quite on the same level as Wong Kar-Wai's 'In the Mood for Love' released here on Friday October 27th. Looking forward to that too.


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