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Da hong deng long gao gao gua
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Reviews & Ratings for
Raise the Red Lantern More at IMDbPro »Da hong deng long gao gao gua (original title)

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

silently deadly

Author: Samiam3 from Canada
12 August 2009

Quite a contrast to his later films, here, Zhang Yimou orchestrates a quiet toned but extremely deadly film. There is not a speck of the glamour from films like House of Flying Daggers, and Hero. It was the success of this which probably earned him the respect and funding for those big budget films. Raise the Red Lantern, has a Kurosawa quality to it; very slow, very dramatic and very thought provoking.

Set around the beginning of the 20th century, The film is about the conflict between four concubines in the massive household of a Chinese lord. Every night he chooses to sleep with a different one. Red lanterns are lit and hung outside the room of whichever he chooses. The story is told from Gong Li's perspective - she has is the latest concubine. The tension is all about the competition among the women for the only power they can have - access to the lord.

Raise the Red Lantern, has a very barren feeling, and with so many wide establishing shots, this truly does resemble a Kurosawa design. The story rumbles with a grim ambiance and hardly ever escalates to an overly-dramatic scale. Zhang deliberately keeps things fairly distant and uncertain, and concludes the story on a dramatic and disturbing note. Such qualities of storytelling are rare, making Raise the Red Lantern a great film to see.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

One master, four wives, too much conflict

Author: jackpf18 from United States
7 June 2007

After her father's death, Songlian is forced into a marriage at the young age of 19 to a master who already has three other wives. As Songlian moves into the master's mansion, there is a sense of jealousy along with conflict within her and the other three wives. The competition for the master's attention becomes tough as Songlian will soon find out. Songlian never seems to be happy throughout the whole film. I don't think I've ever recalled a scene where she even smiled other than the time she got drunk. She does not even wear a wedding dress on the day of her wedding with the master. All she wears is a school uniform. By her wearing this outfit, the audience can get a feeling that Songlian is unhappy about her marriage with the master. Hoping to get the master's attention back after cutting the second wife's ear, Songlian made a statement claiming that she is pregnant. The pregnancy becomes false when Yan'er discovers blood on the white pants of Songlian meaning that she had her period and could not have been pregnant. Things are just going to get worst from there on. Ever since Songlian moved into the mansion, everything bad has been going on. This film revolves around a 19-year-old college student forced into a marriage. It has a great storyline to it along with the costumes to abstract the backgrounds. The director's camera angles were great in this. This is one of the best Chinese films I've seen. I would give this film a rating of 8 out of 10 and highly recommend people to go and watch it.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful and Tragic

Author: babysweets718 from United States
7 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Raise the Red Lantern directed by Zhang Yimou is the perfect testament to the harsh realities women had to face during the 1920's in China. Zhang Yimou offers a glimpse into the time period of concubines and shows the story of our main protagonist, Songlian. Songlian is first portrayed as an independent young woman who has more than enough education women need during the 20's in China. Zhang Yimou develops the story of Songlian to show that no concubine can survive being independent without facing the consequences. Songlian is put through many obstacles and learns that obedience is number one in the concubine lifestyle after witnessing the execution of the third wife. Raise the Red Lantern shows the different side of being a concubine in China, which is the life of loneliness and distance from the outside world that concubines must lead.

Zhang Yimou's direction in Raise the Red Lantern is the true star of the movie. Yimou's constant use of long shots is employed to convey the sense that everything is kept secret in this lifestyle. Yimou's use of color to make the scenery gray is used to show that this is a mundane lifestyle and that there is no getting out. The director's strongest message during the movie was with the third wife when the fourth wife came to watch her sing. The beautiful red kimono against the gray backdrop of the houses showed that these concubines do have souls and personalities outside of their duties as concubines, but as soon as the third wife saw Songlian, she quickly took off the red kimono showing that she must now obey and hide her true self. Yimou accomplished his task of showing the oppressive lives that these women must live and through the use of Songlian he showed that there is no way out.

The only flaw in Raise the Red Lantern was the acting. Songlian did not convey much feeling and as the protagonist this was a mistake. The third and second wives were extremely good in playing their parts and showed their secret attempts to keep a hold of their true personalities. Although the acting was not much to rave about, Zhang Yimou created a beautiful film and in-depth look into the lackluster lives of concubines.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An Extraordinary Achievement

Author: Junker-2 from Wisconsin
10 March 2001

Zhang Yimou's "Raise the Red Lantern" is an extraordinary achievement. Like Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" alerting the cinematic world to the rising of the French New Wave, Yimou's film serves as fair warning to all that the best films in the world are now coming out of Asia.

No, I'm not overstating it.

In 1920s China, 19-year-old Songlian (Gong Li) is sent to the home of a feudal nobleman to become his fourth wife. While the servants treat her as a princess, it doesn't take Songlian long to realize that she is trapped in a gilded cage and that her life, and the lives of all around her, now revolve around the whims of one very selfish man.

Songlian dreams of what her life could have been had she been allowed to finish her education. The third wife dreams of what her life could have been had marriage not ended her opera career. The second wife dreams of what her life could have been had she been able to give the Master a son. And the female servants dream of how wonderful life must be to live as one of the Master's wives.

Yimou films the story with an astonishing beauty, giving even a scene of deadly violence (mercifully hidden from the camera) a gorgeous look. Yimou is also very aware of his leading actress's incredible beauty and he coaxes more expressions from Gong Li's face than it would seem one person is capable of making.

If you have any hesitations about viewing a subtitled film, put them aside and allow yourself to be taken on one of the most wonderful cinematic journeys you will ever travel.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A True Work of Art

Author: Falcon-51 from South Carolina
18 June 2000

A marvelous, beautiful film with stunning cinematography. The story which takes place in 1920s China is about four concubines. The wives which all live in separate houses must compete for the affections and privileges of the master in accordance with his customs. Jealousy abounds between the wives and the scheming keeps tensions high. Each night a lantern is lit in favor of whom the master will be with. Shortly afterwards all the lanterns of that wife's home and courtyard are also lit and the privileges begin. Although they are wives they are treated like well cared for prisoners. Each having servants and their own space.

The first wife and eldest is more like a mother to the others and has the experience and right to make important decisions. The second wife is quiet and reserved but calculating on the inside. The third wife is spoiled and openly displays her dislike for the others. The fourth wife in new and must learn the customs and rules of the master. The film is exhilarating and has a surprising climax. The film is subtitled in English but it is nicely paced so you are not constantly reading or trying to keep up with a lot of dialogue. Nominated for an academy award as best foreign film and although it did not win this is still one great must see film. In fact it is less like a movie and more like a work of art.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The fate of three loving women

Author: andré grisell ( from Stockholm, Sweden
8 June 1999

This film is a display of art by straight lines, red colors and architecture. This is what impresses a lot of viewers (and me too). But I would like to add another aspect, the genuine tragedy of three women carrying love, illusions, passions and expectations. The sad fate of Songlian touches everyone today, yet only a century ago this was reality in most of the world. This film shows culture and traditions very little known to us (in the Western World), and still there is the universal problem of equality for women. That's why the story of Songlian's maid, Nan'er, affected me even more. Not only was she a woman, but a servant to another woman; the lower of the lowest. The scene where Songlian unveils her in her apartment and the subsequent quarrel is one of the most touching film scenes I know. The character of the third wife is ambiguous. Having regained the husband's approval, and dating another man, she can't conceal her jealousy towards Songlian. Jealousy for what reason? 'Raise the red lantern' is a document of a time and a culture forgotten by most, but, as other events in history, has to be reminded of.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Yimou Zhang & Li Gong equals much pleasure

Author: lastliberal from United States
17 February 2008

This Oscar-nominated film which was the favorite of many film critics represents the eighth collaboration between Yimou Zhang (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) and Li Gong (Miami Vice, 2046, Zhou Yu's Train). They make an incredible team and this is an incredible movie.

It provides an inside look at Chinese custom as four wives fight for the right to have the lanterns lit at their house each night representing whom the Master will sleep with. There are really only three, as the Master is not going to choose old wife number one.

Wife number three is a former opera singer and a diva that pouts when not selected, even though she has a backup plan or two. Wife number two is devious and uses others to get what she wants.

But, this is about wife number four, who had to become a concubine after the death of her father. It is a magnificent performance by Li Gong and the costuming and set decoration serve to enhance her incredible beauty.

I never tire of watching her and can never tore of watching any Yimou Zhang film.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Masterfully written and beautifully filmed

Author: Harrison from United States
16 June 2006

"Raise the Red Lantern" is not the first Chinese film I have seen, but I think it certainly ranks in the highest echelons of foreign films. The depth - and psychological terror - of the film makes it a classic in my opinion.

Songlian - a university student 1920's China - is thrown into a marriage with "the master," a polygamist who already has three wives. The competition for the master's attention (and the privileges that come with it) are the sole focus of the wives. Songlian is the only wife that has been educated... and has known what is to be "free." In the constricted, feudal environment of the Master's palatial house, Zhang Yimou shows Songlian's physical and psychological imprisonment in a "gilded cage."

The most horrific thing about this movie is the fact that, in 20s era China, something like this could conceivably happen. The way Zhang Yimou gradually unwinds the story, with sumptuous colors and the incredibly believable acting of Gong Li and the rest of the cast, is beautiful and has a depth that most Hollywood movies lack.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Very beautiful film

Author: jenweeks21 from Austin, TX
24 August 2003

This film is absolutely gorgeous. Its not necessarily the type of movie I would have rented on my own though, I was actually forced to watch it in my english class in 10th grade. A few years later, I saw it at Blockbuster, rented it, and saw exactly why it was a great movie, and its still in the top 5 of my favorite movies.

Set in 1920's China, the story is about Songlian, a 19 year old university student who decides to marry a rich, older man after the death of her father. She moves into his large "court" and becomes his Fourth Mistress. She has a servant named Yan'er, who is in love with the Master, and is also the "evil doer" of someone of who is trying to sabotage the appearance of Songlian. When the Master decides that he would like to spend the night with one of his 4 mistresses, each one is called to a long hall, and a red lantern is placed in front of them, and then lanterns are hung, lit, and the mistress may have anything she desires for dinner, and gets to spend the night with the Master. This does not suit Songlian very well. We see that she has some sort of feeling for the Master, but after the First Sister's (they refer to each other as sisters) son, Feipu, comes along, she seems to lose interest in the Master.

Songlian befriends Meishan, the Third Sister (a former opera singer) and sees just how far deceit can go in this "happy household." I dont want to give anything away for first time viewers because the ending is a shocker. I give this movie a 9 out of 10 mainly because there are a few slow parts in the beginning. I wouldnt classify this film as being artsy, but it is definately beautiful and was written very well. This deserved its Oscar Nod back in 1991.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Game of Light

Author: kurosawakira from Onomichi, 1953
12 January 2014

Zhang Yimou's film "Da hong deng long gao gao gua" (1991) has become one of my few safehavens: a film I retreat to when I return from my film adventures and long for refreshment.

What I like the most is how this is shot, that is, With such discipline: the shots are highly symmetrical, either horizontally or in depth, and often than not in depth. It's amazing, and shows what three-dimensional filmmaking really is all about. I talk of discipline, since they could have shot each scene the ordinary way, going far closer than they do, but instead they step back and let the space of the place suck you in. This creates a wonderful sense of loneliness in the context of the film, and the closeups then have added power.

Speaking of which, this has somewhat ousted another architecturally brilliant film from the same year (1991), just as radical if not more in its use of space, but a lot tougher to sit through.

The same with sound: the contrapuntal dance of sounds and silence, just like that of long shots and closeups, beautifully emphasizes the few important motifs that the soundscape offers us.

But the riches of the film far transcend only the technical, no matter how reinvigorating and masterful they be. Songlian's marriage, as demonstrated by the first scene, is actually an act of rebellion towards her mother and the values her mother represents. Dramaturgically there is an unexpected symmetry there, since when she gets to the house, she finds that all the women do just that, rebel and play the game with far greater ruthlessness than her.

Indeed, the film plays out just like a game of light. The lanterns are lit, they change houses, with it all the perceived authorial power in the game (I think this aspect is occasionally misinterpreted as melodrama). But it wouldn't have worked without Gong Li, who is lovable, beautiful and subtle enough so that in the end we start reading our own projections and assumption on her face.

As far as I know, there isn't a decent Blu-ray of the film in existence. I own a French Blu-ray, which is unfortunately not of a very good quality, and might pose problems for people who don't know French (or Mandarin!), since it's the only subtitle option available.

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