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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 2 people found the following review useful:

Powerful, Beautiful, Disturbing, Ironic, Cruel. Very Well Done.

Author: vlevensonnd-1 from United States
24 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented this without being familiar at all with the title, or actors, or Director. I was glad I gambled on it.

What is beautiful, is the absolutely wonderful acting, the cinematography, the clothing, and the manner of decor.

What is disturbing, is the manner in which women were used, what they were subjected to, how the method of living pitted the women against one another, and how the new and intelligent 4th Mistress fell into the trap and game of it all.

What is ironic, is how certain methods of living were to bring about peace and tranquility, yet this method shows only turmoil, agitation, competition that becomes dangerous, and the resulting heart breaking insecurity and fear.

What is cruel, is the manner in which the women are left to fight for these 'bone tosses' of foot massages (that are still not even really a gift for them - yet a kind of method used to prepare the women for intercourse and to better serve the Master, as he himself stated), and for the shreds of attention from the Master. How incredibly demeaning to have to stand there each evening to see where the red lanterns will be hung that night. I was thoroughly disgusted.

Though they are all expected to support and exalt one another, did you notice what the 1st Mistress whispers after the very first meeting with the 4th Mistress? Ironic. If a rich man's way of life with having several wives and concubines is acceptable and even respectable and honorable, why then would it be considered sinful and wicked for the women who became the Mistresses to him???? The irony.

All this makes for one very powerful message that was sent out. No wonder it was banned in that country. No wonder it never made it to the theater screen over there.

This film is a powerful work of art. Do see it.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: Jonas from Vilnius, Lithuania
17 June 2004

I watched 'Raise the Red Lantern' after watching most of the later Zhang Yimou's films and expected to be it something close to 'The Road Home' but I was quite wrong. Just during the beginning of the movie I realized it was not what I expected, step by step I got closer to understanding what movie it was. Emotional factor is very strong, it's not an easy film to watch, and it's not for everyone.

The story is developing slowly. Acting is perfect, the atmosphere is somewhat surreal and in the end it feels macabric and depressive. Still it's something what is quite natural for Yimou Zhang, just perhaps stronger than in most of his other movies. 'Raise the Red Lantern' is a masterpiece of film-making, and considering the fact it was made 13 years ago (it's not such a short time in the fast developing world of technologies) it is even more stunning. Simply adorable and incredible 10/10.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A sad story about the lives of concubines

Author: PeachHamBeach from Morro Bay, Hammett Valley, Twin Rocks
23 July 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This is currently my favorite foreign language film. I developed an interest in Chinese language and culture thanks to the films THE PILLOW BOOK with Vivian Wu and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Now I can't get enough of the limited amount of Chinese films that make their way occasionally. I am facinated with the many stories and learning opportunities these films provide about the cultures of China.

Gong Li plays the lead character Songlian (Ode to a Lotus in English), a 19 year old student whose father dies and leaves the family facing poverty. Actually, the only remaining family to Songlian is her stepmother, who urges her to marry and relieve the financial strain on the household. In other words, she wants to get rid of the girl, marry her off. We meet Songlian as she makes the decision to marry a rich man who lives far from her hometown, and the decision is neither one of joyous anticipation nor giddy nervousness. It is a decision Songlian would never make in a million years if her circumstances were better.

She marries a man who already has three wives: an older woman in her 60s whose name is not given but who is referred to as "Big Sister" or "First Mistress". The second wife is somewhere in her late 40s, past the prime of womanhood. Her name is Zhouyan. She is friendly and receptive to the new woman in the house, but all too soon we learn that appearances can be deceiving. The third wife is my favorite character, the opera singer Meishan, whose voice is as beautiful as her exotic face and lavish costumes. She comes across as spoiled and jealous of the new "Fourth Mistress" Songlian, and is not above rudely summoning the Master to her house on Songlian's wedding night!!! She makes claims of illness and a handsome Dr. Gao comes calling often, to write Meishan prescriptions for her various ailments.

The custom in this house is that red lanterns be lit in the house the master chooses to visit for the night. Of course, being newlywed to her, the master spends the first night in Songlian's house.

The First Mistress is clearly of not interest to the master. He never visits her. So you never see him call for the red lanterns to be lit in the first house. Zhouyan is getting up there too, and she is desperate to regain the master's favor. She wanted to bare him a son, but in the words of Meishan, "All she had was a cheap little girl." Meishan on the other hand, has given the master a son, and feels that this entitles her to some sort of superiority to the other "sisters".

Like a twisted sorority, these "sisters" all secretly hate one another. The oldest is a sour old fossil who does little more than grumble about how she is old and unwanted and uninteresting. Zhouyan hides her malice behind a benevolent smile and counterfeit friendliness. Songlian finds out that Meishan, the beautiful, spoiled singer, is not her worst enemy after all, it is Zhouyan. Songlian gets this information from her servant, Yan'er, a sullen, young girl who has hated Songlian from the moment she arrived...because she is in love with the master and was hoping he'd marry HER, not some outsider. But as Aunt Cao, the nearly toothless old servant woman says, "You were born to be a servant, not a mistress!!!" and Yan'er's hatred grows all the more.

In the course of a year, Songlian discovers her "friend" Zhuoyan is really an enemy who would love for her to die. Songlian's servant Yan'er hates her and, aided by Zhouyan, tries to put a curse on her. Her friendly rival Meishan is having an illicit affair with Dr. Gao. Nothing is what it seemed at the beginning, and life is miserable. The master is allowed to come and go as he pleases, but his wives just sit in their houses, passing the time in boredom. The master doesn't even allow Songlian to play the flute. In his mind, only men play music, and he takes her father's flute from her and burns it!!!

After scheming a false pregnancy to gain favor from the master, Songlian is punished by having her lanterns covered and no visitations from the master. Now the master is visiting Zhouyan, much to the second mistress's delight. In turn, Songlian decides to publicly punish Yan'er for lighting lanterns in her room, a practice forbidden to the servants. She forces Yan'er to burn the lanterns she was keeping, and to kneel in the snow until she is willing to apologize. Stubbornly, Yan'er refuses, and end up dying of exposure to the cold, an event that shocks Songlian to the point of drinking to dull the pain. In her drunkenness, she reveals to Zhouyan that Meishan and Dr. Gao are having an affair, and of course Zhouyan uses this to her advantage. Another shocking death occurs, and Songlian ends up losing her sanity and living in an eternal haze of psychotic regret. There is no happy ending or deliverance to Songlian's miserable existence in this prison of polygamy.

Sad, fascinating film!!!

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

As a viewer from China,I should say...

Author: Bo Li from Columbia, US
18 December 2001

This movie is a good one, but not the best one of ZhangYiMou's works.Most of Chinese audience did not get moved by it's story because it's too 'conceptual' and doesn't like a true story happened in one's life,even in old age.From the point of movie itself,it's better than other 2 ZhangYiMou's movies which brought him huge international prestige('JU Dou' and 'Red sorghum'). By this movie,ZhangYiMou show audience his great genius on imagery of picture and character,as well as his good feeling of color and traditional chinese music.

If you are interested in ZhangYiMou's movie, I suggest you another one, Living,which won the best actor awards in 1995 Cannes Film Festival for Ge You. It's the best one of his works.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful domestic drama

Author: smallchief from Greensboro, NC
3 November 2001

This is an exquisite film in every detail. Beauty is in every frame. Were it not so well made, I would describe it as a slow-moving domestic drama: Jane Austen with claws. I couldn't quite accept Gong Li as a Chinese woman of the 1920s. She looked a little too tall, well fed, and healthy: a modern look that showed through the gorgeous costumes and scenery.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: (liqox) from D.C.
7 August 2001

This was the first foreign movie I'd ever seen. It had me mesmerized right through to the end. From the characters and acting to the set details, every part of me ached to see more of Zhang Yimou's films. Highly recommend it.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

One of my favorites

Author: cecil b demented ( from paris, france
29 July 2001

The first time I have seen this film, I was surprised by the beauty and the actors, especially Gong Li. Even if the story could seem boring, the director, Zhang Yimou, manages to make a wonder. I think he is one of the best directors in the world. If you want to see a beautiful film and understand the Chinese society at the beginning of the 20th century, you must see this one.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

One of my favorites

Author: JesNollie from USA
26 June 2001

This is one of my all time favorite movies. I must have seen it two dozen times, and I've never tired of it. The competition between the wives is a glimpse at another time and place that I find fascinating. The story is compelling and honest. I highly recommend this film.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Sometimes you don't know who the enemy is...

Author: smakawhat from Washington, DC
17 May 2000

Excellent portrayl and fascinating story of a rich man's wives. The husband is perfectly played, because he is never known and it is only the suffering of his wifes that is ever seen.

Amazing ending that had me thinking about the torture that women in China must have gone through (even though the story is entirely fiction) in that era. It was amazing.

Rating 9 out of 10.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The best movie of the 20th century?

Author: Jonas Ödman ( from Stockholm, Sweden
7 January 2000

I am a big fan of Zhang Yimou and the movies he makes. As in all of Yimou's films, he lets colour and music (and silence) tell much of the story of the film. The scenes where the reds lanterns are lit are not only beautiful but also hypnotic.

And I must say that it is a very interesting choice to make a movie about a man and his four wives and never actually show the face of the man. You may see his shoulder or the back of his head, but never his face. Very interesting. And it makes the focus on the women even stronger.

If you like Chinese movies, see this one. If you have not seen any Chinese movies before, see "Judou" (also Zhang Yimou) first and then this one. You will not be disappointed.

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