From Zhang Yimou, “China’s most exciting director” (Los Angeles Times) and celebrated screenwriter Ni Zhen comes an Oscar-nominated masterpiece of stark beauty and fatal intrigue. Originally banned in mainland China for its dark depiction of Chinese society, Raise the Red Lantern is “a film of astonishing beauty and terror” (Los Angeles Times) that will captivate you from start to finish. In 1920s China, women had few options. So following the death of her father, Songlian (Gong Li), a beautiful nineteen-year old college student agrees to marry a wealthy nobleman. She is to be wife number four at his estate, where daily life revolves around an ancient family custom: the master raises a red lantern outside the house of the wide with whom he desires to spend the night. On the surface, there is harmony between the wives, but trapped inside their gilded cages, with nothing to do but compete for their husband’s favor, the four “sisters” are drawn into a web of petty rivalries that soon escalate into treachery… and tragedy. —20th Century Fox
Zhang Yimou is one of the best-known directors of the Chinese Fifth Generation and one of the most influential and widely respected filmmakers working today. Zhang was born in 1950, in the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, to a future in Communist China that seemed unpromising; his father was an officer in Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Army and one of his brothers was accused of being a spy, while another fled to Taiwan. During the 1950s, his family’s background was suspect and during the convulsive tumult of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, it was criminal. Zhang was pulled out of high school and sent to toil with the peasants. Later, he transferred to a textile factory. While working there, Zhang reportedly sold his own blood to buy his first camera.
In 1978, at the age of 27, Zhang passed the entrance exam for the Beijing Film Academy but was rejected on account of his age. After an appeal to the Ministry of Culture, however, he was enrolled in the B.F.A.‘s class of 1982… read more
Although thinking about it, in such a situation as these directors are in, to what extent can their aims differ? I don't doubt that they made the right move, but at what cost? i guess their significance would never have been recognised to the extent which it is now (especially in the powerful west) and their sense of culture may have just evaporated without trace. Although really, who cares.
This film was developed for a transnational audience, selling itself on its "mainland" themes (which is ironic) and only sets itself up for a sort of filmic deception in terms of its cinematic intentions. Has there ever been a tradition of raising red lanterns? Not according to Dai Qing. Have a look at Yingjin Zhang's text on Nationhood and Ethnicity for details over the topic of Westernised Fetishism.
I'd like to stir it up. This film reminded me of a very expensive Chinese restaraunt in a high class part of town; you head on inside and are dazzled by the luxurious oriental decorative features, then superbly satisfied with the traditional foods on offer, whilst groveling over the persistence of the atmosphere that seems to strike a chord with your ideas of an Eastern lifestyle.