7.8/10
5,767
31 user 28 critic

Ju Dou (1990)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | April 1991 (USA)
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 »

Writer:

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

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Peiqi Liu, Liuchun Yang
Red Sorghum (1987)
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

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... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Wen Jiang, Rujun Ten
To Live (1994)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

After Fugui and Jiazhen lose their personal fortunes, they raise a family and survive difficult cultural changes during 1940s to 1970s China.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Li Gong, Ben Niu
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a ganglord's mistress.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Li Gong, Baotian Li, Wang Xiaoxiao
Not One Less (1999)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Minzhi Wei, Huike Zhang, Zhenda Tian
Keep Cool (1997)
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A spurned lover seeks a rich man for revenge. A random onlooker -- who witnessed the public assault committed by the rich man against the lover -- seeks for monetary compensation for his ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Wen Jiang, Gang Jiao
The Road Home (1999)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Prompted by the death of his father and the grief of his mother, a man recalls the story of how they met in flashback.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Honglei Sun, Hao Zheng
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.5/10 X  

Aircraft hijacking with Chinese special forces rescue. Gong Li as a heroic stewardess.

Directors: Fengliang Yang, Yimou Zhang
Stars: You Ge, Li Gong, Zhaoji Jia
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years.

Director: Kaige Chen
Stars: Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong
Happy Times (2000)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Zhao is an aging bachelor who hasn't been lucky in love. Thinking he has finally met the woman of his dreams, Zhao leads her to believe he is wealthy and agrees to a wedding far beyond his ... See full summary »

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Lifan Dong, Benshan Zhao, Jie Dong
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A Japanese father travels to China's Yunnan province in the place of his ailing son to film a famous folk-opera star.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Stars: Ken Takakura, Kiichi Nakai, Shinobu Terajima
Edit

Cast

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

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. 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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

|

Language:

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
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Jersey Girl (2004) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Like a Greek tragedy
29 December 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The title character, a peasant sold as a concubine to a cruel old man, is played by the beautiful Gong Li, one of the great actresses of our time who followed this brilliant work with spectacular performances in The Story of Qiu Ju (1991), Raise the Red Lantern (1992), and Farewell, My Concubine (1993). Li Wei plays her master, Yang Jin-shan, the childless owner of a dye mill in the agrarian China of the 1920s. Li Wei's fine performance combines craftiness with iniquity reminding me a little of the late great John Huston with scruffy beard. The third character in the tragic triangle is Jin-shan's nephew, Yang Tianqing, a modest man who does most of the work in the dye mill. The pent-up intensity of Li Baotian, who plays Tianqing, recalled to me at times the work of Ben Kingsley. Ju Dou falls in love with Tianqing almost by default, and it is their ill-fated love that leads to tragedy.

In some ways this visually stunning, psychologically brutal film about paternity and the old social order of China was Director Zhang Yimou's "practice" for the making two years later of his masterpiece, the afore mentioned, Raise the Red Lantern, one the greatest films ever made. The theme of patriarchal privilege is similar, and in both films Gong Li portrays a young concubine required to bear a son and heir to a cruel and ageing man of means. Even though the setting in both films is China in the twenties before the rise of Communism, both films very much annoyed the ageing leadership of Communist China and were censured (Ju Dou was actually banned), ostensibly for moral reasons, but more obviously because of the way they depicted elderly men in positions of power.

Ju Dou is the lesser film only in the sense that Sirius might outshine the sun were the two stars placed side by side. Both films are masterpieces, but for me Ju Dou was difficult to watch because of the overt cruelty of the master, whereas in Raise the Red Lantern, Yimou chose to keep the more brutal aspects of the story off camera. In a sense, then, Raise the Red Lantern is the more subtle film. It is also a film of greater scope involving more characters, infused with an underlining sense of something close to black humor. (The very lighting of the lanterns was slyly amusing as it ironically pointed to the subjugation.)

In Ju Dou there is virtually no humor and the emphasis is on the physical brutality of life under the patriarchal social order. Ju Dou is beaten and tortured while we learn that Jin-shan tortured his previous wives to death because of their failure to bear him an heir. The terrible irony is that it is Jin-shan who is sterile. He feels shamed in the eyes of his ancestors because the Wang line will die out with him. But a child is finally born through Ju Dou's illicit affair with Tianqing. (Note that this conjoining in effect saves Ju Dou's life.) Jin-shan thinks the infant is his son and briefly all is serenity. However, while two may live happily ever after, three will not. Notice too that now that Jin-shan has an heir, nephew Tianqing will inherit nothing.

Will they kill Jin-shan? Will fortuitous events put him out of the picture?

Will they find happiness? Will the boy learn the truth about his paternity? Yimou's artistry does not allow superficial resolution, you can be sure.

Note the two significant turns the film takes early on. One comes after Ju Dou discovers that Tianqing has been spying on her through a peep hole as she goes about her bath. At first she is mortified, and then sees this as a chance to show him the scars from the torture she endures daily, and then she shows him her body to allure him. The other turn comes as the child pronounces his first words by calling the old man "Daddy." Instantly Jin-shan, now confined to a wooden bucket that serves as a wheelchair, divines a deep psychological plan to realize his revenge. He embraces the child as his own, hoping to turn the boy against the illicit couple.

The strength of the film is in the fine acting, the beautiful sets, the gorgeous camera work, and in the unsentimental story that does not compromise or cater to saccharin or simplistic expectations. Yimou is a visual master who turns the wood gear- and donkey-driven dye mill of the 1920s into a tapestry of brilliant color and texture. Notable is the fine work that he does with the two boys who play the son at different ages. He has them remain virtually mute throughout and almost autistically cold. Indeed part of the power of this film comes from the depiction of the character of the son who grows up to hate who he is and acts out his hatred in murderous violence toward those around him.

Zhang Yimou is one of the few directors who can bring simultaneously to the silver screen the power of an epic and the subtlety of a character study. His films are more beautiful than the most lavish Hollywood productions and as artistically satisfying as the best in world cinema. The only weakness in the film is perhaps the ending which is played like a Greek tragedy for cathartic effect. One senses that Yimou and co-director Yang Fengliang in choosing the terminus were not entirely sure how this tale should end and took what might be seen as an easy way out.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)


22 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
gong li preshorner
Two questions lanternraiser
worried about the DVD quality yossarian-heller
Aspect Ratio SalParadise
creepy james-hering
chili powder/vinegar sweep24m
Discuss Ju Dou (1990) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?