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China in the 1920's. After her father's death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each of them living in separate houses within the great castle. The competition between the wives is tough, as their master's attention carries power, status and privilege. Each night Chen must decide with which wife to spend the night and a red lantern is lit in front of the house of his choice. And each wife schemes and plots to make sure it's hers. However, things get out of hand... Written by
Mattias Pettersson <email@example.com>
My interest was maintained throughout every minute of this rather long film. I don't remember when I've seen another film in which every single role was played to perfection. (Incidentally, this wonderfully believable acting seems to occur in at least some, if not most, of the roles in every Chinese movie I see, from the mainland or otherwise.)
The story is one of classical simplicity, in in large part presented with the same classical, clear quality. The interplay of passion, jealousy, and revenge is reminiscent of Shakespeare, but, for me, more entertaining--if it's proper to speak of such ultimately somber and even horrifying subject matter as entertainment.
I unhesitatingly gave a vote of ten, and noticed that a full 33% of voters so far had done the same--very unusual.
When Roger Ebert called "Raise the Red Lantern" "breathtakingly beautiful," he wasn't exaggerating. But beyond its beauty, its moral seriousness, the fact that not for a moment is it "dumbed down" in the regrettable Hollywood fashion, its superb acting, and its almost unbelievably perfect pacing, make it a rare, rare experience.
"Red Sorghum," the only other Zhang Yimou film I've seen so far, I found somewhat propagandistic but gripping and visually stunning (even more so than "Raise the Red Lantern.") I will be making an effort to see more of this director's fairly extensive body of work.
It's a shame major theater chains don't schedule movies of this caliber instead of the torrent of commercialized Hollywood trash they foist on the public, which, alas, seems only too eager to wallow in more and more of it.
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