A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband's nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband's heir without ...
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A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ... See full summary »
When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.
In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each ... See full summary »
Lu and Feng are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. He finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife no longer recognizes him.
A spurned lover seeks a rich man for revenge. A random onlooker -- who witnessed the public assault committed by the rich man against the lover -- seeks for monetary compensation for his ... See full summary »
Zhao is an aging bachelor who hasn't been lucky in love. Thinking he has finally met the woman of his dreams, Zhao leads her to believe he is wealthy and agrees to a wedding far beyond his ... See full summary »
A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband's nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband's heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy. This tale of romantic and familial love in the face of unbreakable tradition is more universal than its setting.Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
When watching Ju Dou it suddenly occurred to me that although Zhang Yimou is known for his political arguments the film seems to breathe through a warm and loving hope from Tianqing and Ju Dou. The political references and damnation of the treatment of women resonate but I found myself taking this hope theme and putting it out front. The beauty of the photography is unmatched, in particular the stunning shot of Tianqing working in the dye mill with the whole background illuminated with the suns reddened glare but there is the lack of visual plausibility, being the narrow minded baffoon that I am, the first thought to enter my head was that Ju Dou would never go for Tianqing, look how skinny and ugly the guy is! But the plausibility is increased once they get it together due to their quality performances, Gong Li's fragile "wolf" is probably one of the most mesmerising performances in history. It is truly hypnotic, and Li Baotian shows the contradictory nature of Tianqing, especially his tortured obedience in front of his "uncle" and his masculine dependence on Ju Dou that gives the film so much heart, despite his obvious lack of meat.
What isn't so great is the episodic feel that is helped none by the titles indicating the passage of time. Surely this could have been achieved visually, even on a small budget. Pacing feels a little disjointed, probably because the inciting incident happens quite a long way into the film, but maybe I got that and the act climax confused, note: must watch again.
Small discrepancies aside, my problem is with the narrative. Of course film can do more than to tell a story, but I feel that when you start one you should tell it properly and with skill. Of course, Ju Dou is one Zhang's earliest films and none of his later films that I have seen have suffered from this, but then again they do not portray a claustrophobic feeling so well in streets and houses as well as showing the vastness of the country itself. A visual metaphor for the people being close, feeling each other's pain and joy, with the money, the government for instance, far away, unable, or not wanting to see the plight of the citizens.
And on a final note, the uncle's mean streak and his black heart did not make me feel any less sorry for him in the middle of the film, which although adds a little hostility to Ju Dou, gives us another wonderful character in the film. No one is perfect.
I would highly recommend Ju Dou to all fans of Chinese cinema, especially those who prefer this to the action movies they produce by the bucket load in Hong Kong and are rarely any good unless they star Jet Li, or anyone who has a love of ambience in their movies. This achieves it ten fold.
Now I'm off to see Zhang Yimou's latest, 'The Road Home' in London. High expectations but not quite on the same level as Wong Kar-Wai's 'In the Mood for Love' released here on Friday October 27th. Looking forward to that too.
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