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Not far from Shanghai, in a country twon stands the palatial home of the Pang family. Old Master Pang is an addict who brings up his beautiful daughter Ruyi on opium smoke. Her older brother, Zhengda, is addicted as well, and then paralysed and effectively brain-dead. Zhongliang, Zhengda's brother-in-law, is a successful gigolo in Shanghai who seduces married older women and then blackmails them. When Older Master Pang dies, the clan elders makes Ruyi to take over the role as the head of the household. Zhongliang returns to the Pang family on the death of Old Master Pang, re-encounters Ruyi, and they are secretly attracted to each other. Wanting to seem sophisticated, she succumbs to Zhongliang's attempts to seduce her. But in the emotional maelstrom that follows - for the angry, jealous and sexually frustrated sister (Zhengda's wife) is also part of the picture... Written by
L.H. Wong <email@example.com>
Two months into shooting, Chen Kaige had to let his leading lady go and replaced her with Li Gong. This was immediately followed by a delay in filming due to bad weather. Both of these factors contributed to the budget doubling to US $4 million. Even then, the film's problems were not over - the Chinese authorities then banned the film due to its political undercurrent and explicit scenes. See more »
Another exorcism by Chinese master Chen Kaige (who directed "Farewell My Concubine" three years earlier), of China's disastrous meltdown in the early 20th Century. An old landed family sinks into decadence as the Qing dynasty collapses and the chaotic early years of a Chinese republic swirl around their ghostly ancestral hall and mansion gardens.
Into this scene returns an extended-family member, Zhongliang (played by Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung), ostensibly to position himself for his Shanghai gang's takeover of the estates. But Zhongliang's return home awakens old wounds and rips open all new ones in a family reeling from generations of drug use and the collapse of an ancient civilization.
Cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters, then become embroiled in a sick game of love, lust, and revenge. This is a very sobering film yet hauntingly beautiful at times. All performances, from a radiant Gong Li, down to the smallest roles, are superb. The character development is profound, the story compelling, and the production values are stunning. A first rate movie.
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