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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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Bhavachakra (Wheel of Becoming)

Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
18 January 2016

This is a fascinating movie that you deserve to see mindfully. Zhang truly does it, in that he both gives us a clear picture whereby we can see ourselves with clarity and allows our gaze to wonder outside the walls of that picture. A fascinating interplay between these two notions of concentrating the gaze and letting float just so happens to power Chinese spiritual life, more on this in a bit.

But now quickly to see what is it about, what clear picture emerges? A young girl has to enter a household as concubine, becoming one of four wives of a rich merchant who live inside a walled compound. So immediately the outside world of myriad possibilities and stories closes down behind her and us and life acquires a palpable order.

Various rituals take place that together comprise a larger harmony. Magnificent red lanterns are lit outside the home of whichever wife the husband has chosen to spend the night with; the rest have to return disappointed to dark houses. A foot massage is given to the chosen wife that night, punctuated with a repetitive sound that echoes like temple chimes signaling the time for prayer. Other rituals: the camera itself doesn't roam freely but specific views are established. Looking down from the tiled roof, another facing the bed. The husband is never seen from up close, as if he exists outside this order.

Taken together all these modes insinuate a world that is meticulously groomed and controlled, given structure and color that ritualize appearances. Very Chinese. Each time the lanterns are lit we know one woman has been chosen to be the center of this world for a fleeting night, life given a ceremonial glow.

But is this harmony that we see? The obvious point is a critique of traditional mores left over from the old days and accepted unthinkingly, lives stifled by the walls imposed on them and how the four women scheme and vie for primacy in the order of things. It doubletimes just as well as a veiled critique of communist walls. Party censors thought as much and the work was banned in China.

All of this will be readily available to the Western viewer from our own traditions of painterly beauty and institutionalized oppression. We can rest there and speak the usual platitudes about "the human condition", walk away thinking the film is all about how bad life was for women in China. Or we can - as with Mizoguchi before - attempt to cross into the world that gives rise to these images and reflects a more encompassing view.

Zhang's meticulous abstraction (color - sound - camera - all of it bound by the cyclical turn of weathers outside) comes from a worldview where the same energy is felt to move through man and nature alike, not Western in the least. He's working in a long Chinese line of practiced abstraction with roots in the tea ceremony and the calligrapher's scroll where the effort is not decorative beauty for its sake. It's cultivated awareness that guides the spiritual realization that we are what we bring to life. The calligrapher controls his hand like someone who meditates concentrates his attention - so that it will begin to radiate effortlessly with what rises up from a unfettered, mindful heart.

So if you don't just pass by like a visitor who looks pitifully at the cruelty of some faraway time and its victim? If you use the film to center within the walls of your own life that happened to you? In that case the film has wisdom in store, another view of seeing self and world.

This is the notion that you have been born into this life and have now come to this house, circumstances made it so. Life could have been better, it could have been worse. We see a housemaid who'd love nothing more than to be a wife while the third wife manages to live a life without despair and regret that lets her sing freely. Will you add to the unhappiness, cause unhappiness to others, go mad?

The title of this post refers to a mandala - a sacred space for the concentration of the gaze in Buddhism - frequently seen in Chinese temples; it depicts the universe as wheel and at the center lie craving and ego. See this like a mandala, see yourself in a life that you set in motion around the one ordained from above.

Something to meditate upon

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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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Perfect Depiction of Competition and Deception

Author: Pat M from Philippines
9 April 2013

Raise the Red Lantern is one of the best Chinese movies I have seen. The acting is so realistic, the time and location is historic and exotic, and the colors and music is just luscious. On top of that is the story line which is tragic yet beautiful.

This movie is the perfect depiction of competition and deception. Those who you think of as friends are actually your enemies. Those closest to you will betray you. Those that you cannot stand might as well be your closest allies. And in the end, are all the layers of deception and pointless competition really worth it?

I really recommend this film. The pace might be a bit slow, but it perfectly fits the mood of the movie and it gives you time to think about what happens next.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Marriage, Chinese Style...

Author: Janis Livens from Latvia
18 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Raise the Red Lantern is the third Zhang Yimou film and his third collaboration with Gong Li. And I liked it quite a bit unlike his previous films - Red Sorghum and Ju Dou. The reasons were quite simple, Raise the Red Lantern was better acted, had better characters and story.

Gong Li gives a great performance and it's easily one of the best performances in her acting career. The supporting cast is good, especially the actresses who played the other wives and her maid. This time there are no flat or overly melodramatic performances.

The story is very interesting and it offers a lot of interesting twists and turns. Sadly it takes nearly 40 to 50 minutes to really get going which does hurt the pacing a bit. The characters are fairly complex and their relationships are the driving force of the narrative. I really enjoyed the conversations between the characters and cutthroat attitude was something you really see don't in Hollywood films. The only drawback is the fact that Raise the Red Lantern is sometimes too soap-operish and melodramatic. It doesn't happen too often but can get slightly irritating.

The direction by Zhang Yimou is top notch. Like in his previous films, he creates great atmosphere and mood by mixing the beautiful visuals with music. The cinematography is excellent as always and makes the monotone setting more visually memorable and interesting.

Raise the Red Lantern is a really good film. It's easily one of his better films and it shows. The acting is great, Gong Li is fabulous and the story, while dark and downbeat, offers something different in the period drama genre. Highly recommended for foreign films fans.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful to look at and engrossing plot

Author: primona from United States
12 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This beautifully made film ranks high among my list of favorite movies. One reason is because of its film star, Li Gong, who I loved in Ju Dou, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Curse of the Golden Flower. The second reason is because of Director Yimou Zhang who directed Ju Dou, Hero, House of the Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower, all films that should be on your IMDb watchlist if you haven't seen them. The third reason is the exquisite writing and plot. The film is about 19 year old Songlian (Li Gong) whose family falls on hard times after the death of her father. She marries into the wealthy Chen family and becomes the fourth wife of Master Chen. The competition for his attention and affection among the wives is fierce. This is because the Master decides on a daily basis which wife he will spend the night with. Whomever he chooses gets her lanterns lit and special treatment including a foot massage, her choice of food at mealtime, and the most attention and respect from the servants. The first wife is routinely passed over so the other wives ignore her but the remaining wives hate each other and resort to trickery and backstabbing. The unhealthy environment leads to tragedy.

This film is one that will have you continuing to look at the screen five minutes after it has ended. The wonderfully rich colors shown in the movie are in sharp contrast to the dark, depressing life of Songlian who once dreamed of a happy life before being forced into marriage

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Mr. Yimou's use of colour is unmatched!

Author: worst-nightmare13 from Muscat, Oman
17 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's no secret that Zhang Yimou directs some of the beautiful movies in cinema history. His extensive and vivid use of colour is gorgeous. More than 10 years before he directed his modern-classics, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern was there. The film has a simple storyline, a restricted location and a great cinematography. Oh, and it also employs beautiful use of colour. Sometimes I think Zhang Yimou is a product of an explosion in a colour factory.

Raise the Red Lantern quite literally pits 4 women against each other and the film observes enviness, jealousy, hatred, anger, love & sorrow. Also, to some extend, Totalitarianism. Every woman wants to be the top mistress in front of the master and wants the red lanterns hung in front of their house. The 4th Mistress quickly catches the eye of her personal maid, Ya'ver, the 3rd Mistress & the 2nd Mistress. One thing leads to another and the 3rd Mistress ends up dead, the maid ends up dead, and the 4th Mistress goes insane, causing The Master to marry once more. Enter 5th Mistress, but thank goodness the film ends there, because another 2 hours would've been hectic. Not that I would've minded it, but enough is enough! I think the appropriate title should've been Personality Clash or This is how Women silently kill each other, or something like that.

The pacing of the film is good. The slow and smooth camera movements did the trick. Red Lantern also employs repetition and I think it was a good move. It kept reminding us of what we're watching and what the film's story is all about. Unlike Hero or House of Flying Daggers which were clearly story-driven, this film was more character-and-music driven. The heavy metal? background music was awesome and I think it perfectly matches the mood and characteristics of the film and the women, respectively.

From the performances, Gong-Li had the upper-hand, while He Caifi was just a rung below, but both were amazing in their characters. They both, out of all, portrayed the frustration, the anger, the hidden hatred, and then a sudden affection for each other, almost perfectly. The film was entirely on their shoulders and both handled the weight flawlessly!

My ending note will be: Not just a great film. A landmark film! It has characters which are divided in two: Either you end up hating them, or loving them. A quite-powerful film that demands a repeat!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A bird trapped in a cage

Author: Champcai from China
19 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film itself is quite perfect in most aspects. The story is a replica of a feudal society family in old China. It tells a story of a young student who is forced to drop out of university and marry a wealthy business man due to poor economic reasons. What is worse, she is the fourth wife.

The casting is also fabulous to include Gong Li and even the male protagonist who never reveals his face during the whole film is a very professional actor.

The description of atmosphere is another thing that is adding colors. It is very oppressive living in such a yard isolated with the outside world. The silence of the yard, the red lanterns which are strong in symbolism both escalate exquisiteness of the film.

The husband, the four wives and the servants living in the yard is a miniature of feudal society which is full of power, status, deceit and conspiracy.Songlian thinks she is educated and different from the the rest of family. Actually, she is not. The power of the surrounding environment is so overwhelming that she unconsciously turns into one member of them as she gradually gets used to the life there.

In the end, she becomes crazy for seeing the third wife killed; however, the story is unfinished with the coming of another prospective victim, the fifth wife.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Film review of Raise The Red Lantern

Author: wenxin5767 from New Zealand
12 September 2010

Film review

The film Raise The Red Lantern is one of the most famous film of Yimou Zhang. It is a successful film. Under the rule of polygamy, the film narrated a tragic story. All the concubines live in a big house, the relationship between these concubines are not good, it bring a lot of strife openly and secretly. Song Lian is the main character of the film, the actress (Gong Li) made a perfect performance. The director Yimou Zhang used the simple scene and language to show viewers a shocking story, and also criticize the rotten old society. I think that the film have a lot of mentionable aspects.

First of all, the film is full of Chinese characteristics. In the film, the traditional thought (Confucianism) showed in some plots. The steward always mentioned that all of people should obey the old rules. All the four concubines wanted to have a son. In ancient China, man have important position in a family. All the women should be compliant and loyal to their husband, or they will be punished. The third concubine was hang because of her disloyalty. The whole messuage likes a society, all the people are influenced by old rules, the patriarchy is entrenched. Besides, the costume of the film is filled with traditional element, the messuage is also Chinese outdatedbuilding. The music of the film used a lot of blow and beat mode. In addition, the third concubine performs the Beijing opera, which is traditional Chinese culture.

Secondly, I want to say the character of the film and the stage set are well-designed. Especially the role of Song Lian, she is an undergraduate, so she has new ideas in that age. Because of that, in the film, Song Lian did not sit bridal sedan chair, took the luggage by herself, and did not like foot massage. However, as the time going, she became a depraved person. The design of this character highlight the feudal thought has huge influence in that period, even though the educated undergraduate also cannot escape its influence. In addition, the first wife is an old woman, the second concubine is a deceitful person, the third concubine is a singer of drama. These four women have different backgrounds and personalities, these arrangements enrich the storyline. What's more, there are many detailed design about stage set. The four women have different designs of room. The first wife is an old woman, so her boudoir is dark, the furniture is old, and the clothing is fuscous. The third concubine is a singer of Beijing opera, thus her room is full of dramatic element.

Thirdly, I think the film has ingenious narrative approach and good foreshadowing. Director made use of the four seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) to narrate a whole story. It is simple and clear, but it is quite impressive. The beginning of the film is the dialogue between Song Lian and stepmother, the last words of Song Lian said: "woman is just like that", and then there are two lines of tears on her face. This scene let audience know the film is about the tragedy of woman. It is also a good foreshadowing for the following story. Besides, the word conflict between Song Lian and Yan'er is also an important foreshadowing for the succedent things.

Fourthly, I think the use of long shot, close-up and music make the film more resultful. At the beginning of the film, there is a close-up on Song Lian for a few minutes. With the background of white window, the atmosphere has sense of loneliness and futureless. Director used a lot of long shot and close-up on red lantern, it work in concert with the title of film. In the film, master is a lightspot, as he never has full-face shot. Director through words embody the existence of master. Although we cannot see the face of master completely, the role of master fully reflect the patriarchy, he is a marblehearted people. This is a deliberate arrangement, it can serve as a foil to the dark of feudalism. In this film, a large amount of music is dramatic music. This can reflect the epitasis and the depressive atmosphere of the big house. The sound of foot massage is gripping, the singing of the Mei Shan (the third concubine) is bleak. The combination between lens shift and music make the character and atmosphere very dismal.

Finally, I feel the scene of the film is exquisite, it is cinematography. The red lantern plays an important role. When the servants kindle the lanterns, the whole surroundings are full of vitality. However, when the servants extinguish the red lanterns, the whole environment is hopeless and tenebrous. This contrast further highlights the theme of the film. In addition, the scene of the four seasons is true to nature. Especially in winter, the landscape is beautiful, it is like a perfect picture.

In a word, the film is well worth seeing. The story, the shoot, the costume, stage set and the music are all art. The film Raise The Red Lantern is a classic work.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Plot slow in the start but flows with motivation. Use of Colour is motivated.

Author: timothychan ( from Singapore
12 August 2002

I find the front of the film a tad too slow but perhaps thats the mood and foundation on which Zhang Yi Mou wants the rest of the film needs to be built on. Bleakness is used as a building block, reflected both in the cinematography (use of colour and camera angles) and pacing of the plot in the frontal section of the film (slow and lengthy). With that, the audience can feel the atmostphere and emotion of the situation in the film. It orientates the audience about the family, the traditions and lifestyle as well as the underlying conflicts.

Soon enough, the plot starts to heighten, showing more conflict between the mistresses, with the old master and with the servants. The plot flows amazingly well, using the different characters to drive situations and thrust the story forward.

The twists in the plot adds dimension to the story and make you jump from hate, to like, to sympathy for the characters, bringing on a journey; almost toying with your feelings. The finger is pointed at you when you switch from siding one mistress to the other and from fourth mistress to Yan Er.

The use of colour is motivated. It brings out the atmostphere in the film, portraying sadness and entrapment that the main character feels. Unlike in similar chinese films where colour is plainly used to bring out the richness, wealth and grandeur of the chinese people and thier culture (The Last Emperor), this film portrays normal everyday scenes in cold bleak colour but uses colour at key points in the plot to convey a message as to how the feeling is at that time. Even when colour is used, it is not to portray warmth but used to convey darkness and haunt.

The story ends proving that nothing has changed, providing a powerful blow that contributes to the sorrow of the story.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, wonderfully acted, haunting drama

Author: Cathy Young ( from Middletown, NJ
18 May 2000

"Raise the Red Lantern," the story of a college-educated young woman who becomes the fourth wife to a wealthy man in imperial China, made an indelible impression on me when I first saw it in the theater. It gets off to something of a slow start (the first 20 minutes or so), but then the tension begins to build and the film becomes a gripping psychological drama. One thing I found appealing about "Red Lantern" is that while the film portrays a brutally patriarchal system in which women are clearly very oppressed and dependent on their lord and master for everything, it does not idealize the women or turn them into doe-eyed, sweet, saintly victims. The wives and concubines are resourceful, smart, competitive, and very determined to make the best of their situation... in any way they can. They can even be cruel and downright evil. Forget the cliche that men are interested in power and women are interested in love. These women are definitely interested in power and status -- though, of course, the only way they can obtain it is by winning the husband's favor. Yet their power struggles are just as ruthless as anything that happens in the "male" world of politics, business, or war, and just as fascinating to watch.

The exquisitely lovely Gong Li is superb as the tragic heroine, Songlian. Excellent performances, too, by the other women. Visually, the film is strikingly beautiful; the camera lovingly caresses every detail of the interiors, while the severity of the outdoor in winter occasionally provides a stark contrast to the luxury of the indoors. Sometimes the visuals are almost too lush, yet the style does not detract from the substance.

A must-see, for anyone with a grown-up attention span.

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