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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You must see the original to understand the latter, 13 June 2006

Have you ever danced? For most the simple answer is yes, and then of course we each like to add either our stories or explanations. For women these stories are usually pleasant, either their first dance at school, or they actually had dance training when they were younger. But for men, the tables turn. If they had ever danced, they usually say they were forced into it, that it was "only for a little while" or that they simply hated it. We all know that dancing cannot possibly be that horrendous or painful, then why do so many men find it necessary to cover-up their dancing, especially if it was out of personal interest. Now, imagine yourself in a society where dance is socially forbidden, not in any shape or form, not between husband and wife and most definitely not out of personal interest. It is considered shameful, embarrassing – but it is an escape, a way to enter an alternate universe of your life in a split second, would you do it? What if dancing forced you into secrecy and as hard as you tried to deny it, it became your passion. Would you let dancing go because of society or would you keep it close to your heart forever, if your heart deems it necessary?

Mr. Sugiyama was a successful Japanese businessman, a "salary-man" who stayed late at work and went out with co-workers afterward, a custom necessary for your success within a company. Usually coming home late, he knew that tomorrow was going to be the same as the day before and the 20th day from now; his life has been set for him. On the train on the way back home he notices a young woman looking out a window on the top floor of a building. She catches his attention immediately and after many debates with himself, over several days, he decides to come see her, only to find out it is a dancing establishment. He gives it a chance nonetheless, and once he finds Mr. Aoki, a fellow co-worker, hiding behind a wig at this same establishment, he starts to gain confidence and awareness that maybe it is alright to enjoy dance. He becomes engrossed in it, disciplining every aspect of his dancing whether on the train or even at work, and dance gives life to him, showing in simply the way he rides his bike. Yet Mai, the woman who first caught his attention and an instructor within the school, has seemed to lose this passion that he just found for dance. It takes one dancing competition, in which Mr. Sugiyama participates and Mai instructs him, for both of them to face their fears, define their personal meaning of dance, and determine what is truly important and necessary in their lives.

Maybe not everyone can relate to dancing, but there may be something that each of us has in our hearts to do that we are simply forbidden. Moreover, I believe this picture correctly portrays the passions of humankind, the lack thereof, and the effects of both on the human being. The director allows us to see Mr. Sugiyama's transformation, how Mr. Sugiyama first develops his passion for dance showing no longer just at the dance school, but everywhere else, at work and at home. In contrast, the director shows Mai, an almost stoic woman who has this opportunity to dance and yet it no longer brings life to her. The acting is wonderful and we are left wondering what it is that happened to her and whether Mr. Sugiyama will continue to dance. However, something seems to be missing in this film. I believe the director could have given more life to the picture itself, especially when representing something so expressive as dance. It may be that factor that I have danced before, but other than some short scenes at the beginning or end, this picture lacked an artistic aspect to give life to the passions of those involved. There is only so much that a storyline and acting can provide, and the artistic element fills in the vacancies. For me, the director failed to do so, both within the dance studio and during the competitions.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Haunting, yet beautiful, 13 June 2006

It's been days since I've watched the movie and it still seems as though I'm haunted by it. A movie is yet to make the same impression on me. Yes, movies exist that cause frightening images every time you close your eyes, but they're mainly either based on gruesome scenes of blood and torture or involve ghosts and other somewhat fictional characters. Well, the director of Raise the Red Lantern required neither, the work, in my opinion, of a great artist and scholar of humankind and the human mind. From what we mainly know, only ghosts haunt the human world but what if we were to imagine that death is not necessary, and that instead our own selves can haunt the present even alive. What if through human suffering, rivalry, jealousy and the imprisonment of the mind we can destroy our souls and spirits. And what if even worse, it is not other ghosts or "evil spirits" that cause this, but our fellow human beings. I believe this is the reason why Raise the Red Lantern finds a small place deep inside its' viewers: it speaks of the horrifying effects of humankind that each one of us can be affected by – of death during life.

Songlian, only nineteen years of age, used to attend a University in China in the 1920's, all until her fate took a fatal turn leaving her in the mansion of a wealthy man, never to know the outside world again. This mansion does bring its luxuries: foot massages, a private room, your own "faithful" servant and somewhat of a husband - all until your servant becomes jealous of you, you rival with the Master's three other mistresses, and possibly countless others to come, and best of all, most of these luxuries are only provided so that you could better entertain and care for the Master, including bearing children for him. Once the women's' dreams are lost, what remains? - a need for passion and attention is something that each of the women rival for, and which some would be willing to do anything for, whether or not it be humane. Jealousy is strong and deception all the more so; the characters' lives are all intertwined and every action can cause a chain reaction, leading to the degradation of the human spirit and mind. What amazed me most about the director's work is the use of color to depict emotion and the techniques used to create tension, fear, struggle and a distinct message and point of view without ever having to show us the crime being committed. Every season throughout the story and every character, personality and emotion is linked to color. The various use of color tinting: demonstrating sunrise and sunset, light emitted by the red lantern in its different shading and position, the symbolism behind the red lantern and the women's condition within the mansion, and the draping in black curtains of Songlian's lanterns when she has committed a crime against tradition are both visually stunning and extremely effective in creating the mood of the time. Each woman's room fits hand in hand with their personality: the opera singers (Meishan's) elaborate and bright coloring as opposed to the First Mistress' dark, old wood furniture and darker clothing. And lastly, what I have seen few directors do, Zhang Yimou shows us less to make us feel more: scenes of torture and crimes, in many instances we are not shown them or the faces, instead we only view them from the perspective of one of the characters. The use of sound and long camera shots allows us to embody the characters and experience the story all the more, and because each of the four actresses dove deeply into the character of the women, this experience is truly amazing.

Brightens mood, hopes and dreams, 13 June 2006

Lagaan, a tale of survival, struggle, love and courage and for those of you who have heard this too often it adds a twist – a cricket match between two particularly different cultures in mind, traditions and techniques.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and starring Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley and Paul Blackthorne is a movie that not only invites viewers of different cultures, as can be seen by the variety of both Indian and British actors, but also viewers of different ages. Rated PG for the lack of any sexual content and only minor violence, not only can adults and teenagers appreciate the lessons and stories of love and life, but children can enjoy the preparations to and final game of cricket. A runtime of 224 minutes encompass a wide array of genres including drama and romance, musical and sport.

This story begins and ends in the village of Champaneer, with the fate of the villagers' lives resting on a game of cricket. British occupation of India during this time brings forth the conflict the villagers face: the Lagaan, a tax the Raja must pay for British services. The villagers, who provide the Raja with crops for the tax, pray for rain but their prayers go unanswered as the Lagaan threatens hunger and despair upon the entire village. Only Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) has the courage to stand up to British official Capt. Russell (Paul Blackthorne) who offers a game of cricket in return for the repeal of the Lagaan for three years, but if the British win the Lagaan will be tripled. With tension already inflamed between the Indians and British, Bhuvan and the villagers form a family, using each individual's talents to learn a game they've never played so that they could win life. Even Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), the British sister of Capt. Russell, joins this family in hopes of helping them and finds herself in a love triangle between herself, Bhuvan and Gauri (Gracy Singh), a young Indian girl. When the day of the game comes you're left wondering whether spirits will be revived or broken for the Indian village.

Even though at first I was frightened to learn the movie was about three and a half hours long, I have to say as a viewer I did not feel them. Not only is the script historically accurate and both humorous and dramatic at the right moments, the plot keeps you guessing, waiting the entire movie. An easy story to follow, the director provides just the right amount of suspense and relief to keep you going. The director I believe is a master of the camera as he uses various camera angles to get the viewers to feel what he intends, using both "bird's-eye" views as well as views from the ground and many more. Visually stunning, the settings and costumes were amazing from a gorgeous sunset emphasized by Gauri's sari to a dance number in the pitch black, gorgeous all the more due to the bright costumes of the women. The musicals were my favorite: stunning performances and beautiful voices but for those of you not interested in dance, the cricket game is just as intense and do not worry if you're foreign to the game: so are they. Lastly, I applaud the acting simply because they were able to get across the true elements of life: love, despair, happiness and hope.