Raise the Red Lantern

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Overview

The phenomenal success and international acclaim of Raise the Red Lantern, cemented Zhang Yimou's status as a leading figure in world cinema and reaffirmed the vibrancy of Chinese cinema. Though the film was the topic of great political controversy in China upon its release, it received armfuls of awards from Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom and a nomination for an Academy Award. This sumptuously photographed drama, set in Northern China in the 1920s and based on the novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong, stars...
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Overview

The phenomenal success and international acclaim of Raise the Red Lantern, cemented Zhang Yimou's status as a leading figure in world cinema and reaffirmed the vibrancy of Chinese cinema. Though the film was the topic of great political controversy in China upon its release, it received armfuls of awards from Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom and a nomination for an Academy Award. This sumptuously photographed drama, set in Northern China in the 1920s and based on the novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong, stars Gong Li as Songlian, the fourth wife of an elderly landlord. Songlian is a college student who has been married off by her stepmother, so it is with tremendous frustration that this woman, who had hopes of using her education to broaden her horizons, now finds herself reduced to a small enclosure at the beck and call of her husband. Despite being given a maid Kong Lin and luxurious surroundings, she feels trapped inside the cheerless walls. Upon her arrival, Songlian realizes that she must keep one step ahead of her rivals, the three other wives. She also learns of her husband's tradition of lighting a lantern outside of the house of the wife with whom he intends to spend the night. During the first night together with her husband, she finds he is called away to tend to his spoiled third wife He Caifei. Songlian then becomes acquainted with his other wives -- his first wife Jin Shuyuan, an elderly woman who ignores Songlian; the third wife, an ex-opera singer; and the second wife Cao Cuifeng, who offers Songlian friendship and helpful advice. But it turns out that the second wife's motives are not exactly innocent--she is conspiring with Songlian's maid to undermine both the third wife and Songlian. Raise the Red Lantern is a moving exploration of power in a suffocating world of ossified tradition and naked ambition-a masterpiece of 1990s world cinema.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This 1991 film brought attention to director Zhang Yimou, one of China's most gifted filmmakers. Within his native context, Yimou is viewed as a subversive as well as a courageous filmmaker: His films, often set in his country's feudal past, explore the theme that old attitudes don't always die with the systems that fostered them. Raise the Red Lantern, set in northern China in the 1920s, is among the landmarks in a body of work that is as richly visual as it is thematically complex. The story finds teenager Songlian Gong Li marrying 50-something Chen Ma Jingwu, a rich and ruthless man who already has three wives. Each night, Chen's servants place a red lantern in front of the door of the wife on whom the master has decided to bestow his sexual attentions, and inevitably the newest spouse finds herself pitted against the older ones. This struggle among the wives for power, or at least the semblance of it, allows Zhang a framework on which to hang various disturbing links between past and present. Gong Li, who has been linked to the director in much the same way that Marlene Dietrich was linked to Josef von Sternberg, delivers an exquisite performance that one critic called "unnerving in its emotional nakedness." She provides the film's emotional core and makes it an unforgettable viewing experience.
All Movie Guide - Jonathan Crow
Visually astonishing and dramatically devastating, Raise the Red Lantern is both the most finely realized film of director Zhang Yimou's celebrated career and one of the landmark films of the 1990s. Like Zhang's previous Ju Dou (1990), Lantern is a damning portrait of women at the mercy of a rigid patriarchal power structure. Zhang's voluptuous visual style accentuates Songlian's plight, as the film's static camera echoes the stagnancy of the household's feudal traditions and elaborate rituals. The camera's framing, which seems to incarcerate the characters, adds to the household's rancid, claustrophobic atmosphere. Coming only a few years after the bloody massacre at Tiananmen Square, the film could be read as an (oblique) critique of contemporary China, as the perpetual struggle for power that precludes any unity among the wives provides a depressingly apt metaphor for the fragmented civil society of post-Cultural Revolution China. Though banned in both China and in Taiwan, Raise the Red Lantern received armfuls of international awards and a nomination for an Academy Award, thus cementing Zhang's status as a leading figure in world cinema and reaffirming the vibrancy of Chinese cinema.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/24/2007
  • UPC: 027616082626
  • Original Release: 1991
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 2:05:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gong Li Songlian
He Caifei Meishan
Ma Jingwu Chen Zuoqian
Cao Cuifeng Zhuoyun
Jin Shuyuan Yuru
Kong Lin Yan'er
Zhihgang Cui Doctor Gao
Zhao Qi Chen Baishun-Housekeeper
Ding Weimin Mother Song
Chu Xiao Feipu
Cao Zhengyin Old servant
Technical Credits
Zhang Yimou Director
Zhao Fei Cinematographer
Chiu Fu-Sheng Producer
Hou Hsiao-Hsien Executive Producer
Dong Huamiao Art Director
Zhao Jiping Score Composer
Cao Jiuping Art Director
Huang Luhua Costumes/Costume Designer
Yang Lun Cinematographer
Feng Yiting Production Manager
Du Yuan Editor
Ni Zhen Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Raise the Red Lantern
1. Main Titles/Marriage Decision [3:39]
2. Fourth Mistress [7:23]
3. Wedding Night [5:11]
4. Family Custom [3:30]
5. Second Sister [4:17]
6. The Servant Girl [2:02]
7. Eating Together [1:49]
8. Raise the Red Lantern [3:42]
9. Rivalry [6:22]
10. Rooftop Shed [5:38]
11. A Game of Mah Jong [8:16]
12. Breaking Tradition [4:01]
13. The Flutist [2:27]
14. Voodoo Doll [5:10]
15. Short Haircut [5:10]
16. Smiling Scorpion [5:11]
17. Foot Massage [3:20]
18. Songlian's Pregnancy [5:09]
19. "Cover the Lanterns" [5:25]
20. Retaliation [4:32]
21. Living Ghosts [4:57]
22. Destiny [6:15]
23. Nothing to Lose [2:08]
24. Disgraced [3:37]
25. Murder [6:03]
26. Meishan's Spirit [4:05]
27. Songlian's Fate [2:29]
28. End Titles [2:52]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Raise the Red Lantern
   Play Movie
   Language Selection
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Spanish
      Subtitles: French
      Subtitles: None
   Scene Selection
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fascinating portrayal of women's relationships

    This is a fascinating portrayal of women forced to compete with each other in the patriarchal society of pre-communist China. The heroine is a young student (played by Gong Li) is forced by her stepmother to leave the university and become the fourth wife of a rich aristocrat. Entering the household, she finds that the wife who is chosen each night by the master, is rewarded by the red lanterns displayed all around her court. The one with the red lanterns is treated to extra attention and privileges, including daily foot massages and choosing the dishes for the household's dinner. The four wives compete with each other for the master's attentions signified by the red lanterns. The most fascinating aspect of the film, is that the master is never shown in full view. The dramatic attention is all on the women, and the film shows how this patriarchal system turns the women against each other, with devastating results. This is Zhang Yimou at his best! This movie is so much better than Hero and The House of Flying Daggers, because it has drama without the distraction of excess.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    What can one say about Zhang Yimou and his muse Gong Li...........

    When Zhang Yimou the director of this film collaborates with his muse Gong Li you know that the film will be a memorable one. I can say that I have seen all of the films by director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li. This film is remarkable and unforgettable. The film is subtitled, but does not distract from the cadence of the film. I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves the director, the actress or foreign films in general. You will not be disappointed!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The more things change the more they stay the same

    I saw this film twice at Landmark Cinemas. For me, the ultimate profundity of this film is to be found the way in which one might infer the blind ambition of the wives, as it relates to the box of dead women in the attic. It is interesting to note that the husband was powerless to prevent the murder, as it happened while he was away on business. The filmaker left me to believe that this was not any first time occurance. As my riot grrrl frinds have often related, "Women are vicious". I left with the errie feeling that the box had many such tales to tell.

    A Bestlord Slavedragon

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Foreign Drama

    This is a spectacular foreign film that will just pull you in right away. It seems a little slow at first but than you get right into it. Very faithful to the short story as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Movie!

    Another great movie with Gong Li.....I was hooked the whole time, great plot, really makes you think. WATCH THIS MOVIE!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    SLOW BUT MOVING

    OUT OF ALL OF YIMOU'S FILMS THIS ONE IS THE QUIETEST. THE PLOT IS EXCELLENT AND WAS A GOOD STEP FOR THE DIRECTOR IN TRYING SOMETHING DOWNBEAT. THE SETTING IS VERY ISOLATED BUT FANCIFUL. IF YOU LIKED THE LAST EMPEROR YOU'LL LIKE THIS. HOWEVER, NEW AUDIENCE MEMBERS MIGHT EXPECT A STYLE SIMILAR TO "HERO" OR "FLYING DAGGERS." THIS IS A CHAMBER FILM EDITED LIKE A 70'S DRAMA.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Finally available

    I viewed this video several years ago. It has intrigued me ever since. Fate, jealousy, bad mistakes are all here. I have waited for some time for this video to come out in DVD. Now it is!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    One of My other FAVS!!!

    This film I saw after school one day and an really excited about the release!!!!! gong Li delivers a great preformance as a college student sold as a mistress by her family!!!! Zhang Yimou brings these characters to life!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted August 9, 2009

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted March 6, 2009

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    Posted March 20, 2010

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    Posted November 26, 2010

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    Posted November 11, 2008

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    Posted May 2, 2010

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