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Raise the Red Lantern (Da hong deng long gao gao gua) Reviews

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Super Reviewer

May 17, 2012
A fantastic film about expectations and societal roles. Director Zhang Yimou exhaustively captures the pomp and circumstance of every tradition, beautifully juxtaposing this grandeur with the desperate plight of the concubines. He shows that under all the bizarre foot massages and the ceremonial lighting of the lanterns, there is a group woman eagerly laying in wait for the master to come and bestow upon them his light.
Confined to grounds of this temple, or what seems like a very small prison, he captures both the elegance and the crippling confinement that these women call home. Even in this isolated & relatively small space, Yimou makes the stakes feel so high.
For me it was an unexpected delight and a film I will not soon forget.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2011
A House of traditions and customs haunted by scandal, hatred, and deceit; Raise The Red Lantern is aesthetically breathtaking strengthened by a young Gong Li's glorious performance. Silently intense and deeply metaphorical. Sublime.
Adam M

Super Reviewer

December 25, 2010
Elegant staid compositions, flowing rooftops, a hundred shades of red and yellow light surrounded by grey, patriarchy depersonalized with long shots and curtains, Gong Li... The filmmakers seem a bit overeager for their ending, which is out of romantic fiction... Mao is coming, you know
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

October 14, 2010
Well, this movie is definitely not for someone who hates slow paced movies...cuz this is the slowest ever. But, it is so well done, and the storyline so boggles my mind, that I just couldn't stop watching it. This is one crazy culture.

Super Reviewer

January 7, 2009
Picture this: 1920-something China. A rich man has four wives. Each wife has her own house. Each house is connected by a common courtyard. Every night the four wives stand by their door to see which house will get the red lantern. The house with the red lantern gets to 'host' the husband for the night. The wife with the red lantern also gets to decide what's for dinner, has general control of the combined households and, most importantly, gets a foot massage. Throw four women together in vicious competition for a foot massage and you've got the makings of top-notch drama. Five stars.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

June 4, 2007
Seriously, sometimes I feel like I enjoy Chinese movies more simply because they are in Chinese and I can identify more. Like, there were mannerisms displayed in Songlian I can detect in my mother. I know a woman who is just like the Third Wife, and also the Second Wife, and even the maid. Honestly it's never struck me so completely as it has in this movie, which is weird since it's a period film...but it doesn't feel like a period film. All that aside, this is an intensely searing film whose thin plot line seems to work continuously for two hours and not get tiresome. Or maybe it is the thin plot line that remarks on the ridiculousness of Chinese customs and monarchy at the time.

Super Reviewer

March 19, 2008
I'm a sucker for a good "period piece". Throw in a great actress (Gong Li) a intriguing story and some amazing cinematography...and I'm hooked!

While ultimately a very sad tale, it presents many interesting questions and is intriguing on many levels.

An enjoyable experience over all.
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

June 13, 2006
A beautifully shot film with a beautiful mid-20s Gong Li. The subject, the life of the concubine, is not, however, beautiful. La vita is not bella. It is a tradition of slavery made palatable only to the point that it permits a lavish and pampered lifestyle -- in some ways these women are like calves being fatted for slaughter. Other than that, it is slavery by any other name, and it does not smell sweet. Brutal, harsh, mindless, insufferable, suffocating, soul-killing -- these are some of the adjectives that come to mind for the life depicted in these sumptuous settings.
John B

Super Reviewer

July 4, 2012
I guess this is where it all took off for Zhang Yimou and what a take off this was. This is visually stunning and with a genuine heart felt storyline.

Super Reviewer

March 2, 2009
Voluptuous, visually astonishing and dramatically devastating, a damning portrait of women at the mercy of a rigid patriarchal power structure. Gong Li is scintillating.

Super Reviewer

December 22, 2008
The highly regarded Zhang Yimou film about a woman who is forced to become the fourth wife to an aristocrat. The film should be remembered for its rich colorful cinematography alone, but there?s even more to like. Gong Li gives a remarkable performance, many have said she?s a lot better in her native language then she is in flicks like Miami Vice, and they?re right. The film reminds me a lot of British period pieces about domestic intrigue and class conflicts, except in a different cultural context. Some have seen it as an allegorical attack on communist China, I?m not sure how much that pans out, but it works well enough on the surface that it doesn?t matter.

Super Reviewer

March 25, 2007
I need to see this one again.
January 1, 2011
I love this movie...Gong Li is gorgeous and so are the dresses. I don't understand the foot massages. They don't look relaxing at all.
May 22, 2010
This film won two awards for lush cinematography, among the best I have ever viewed, and for that alone it is worth seeing.

The reason this film, and others out of China such as "Hero," are so gorgeous are, again, due to America tossing it's economic ability onto the global scrapheap. Hollywood decided that the lustrous Technicolor process was too costly - as no new low in quality product is too low for an American corporation to stoop. Chinese filmmakers snapped up all the remaining cameraworks ... and went to work mastering the technique. The rest is economic history; China has now and wholly owns the ability to make the lushest, most colorful cinematography.

Tthere are two versions in DVD release. If you get the MGM World Films version, you are good to go. Not as good as the Orion VHS release, but very nice. If, however, you get the release from a company called Razor, you have the DVD that wins the award for worst transfer ever on planet Earth.

A real piece of garbage, yielding more catscratch, snow and grain then I have ever seen in any DVD - it constantly fills the screen to the point of total distraction. The beautiful reds throughout the original movie are washed out with excessive brightness. There are even places where the sound/score is warped/distorted.

The English subtitles in the Razor release are riddled with spelling errors including such difficult words as "bad," "then," and "servant" (spelled "savant"). The translation includes quite a few odd idiom choices as well. You would think this sort of thing would have been easily avoided with an earlier translation/subtitling already available apparently Razor couldn't be bothered to employ/review it.

It looks like Razor just did a direct transfer of a copy of the film that was rotting in a can somewhere. [The Razor release has "A Tale of Beauty and Passion" in script across the front of the case/artwork at bottom.]

"Raise The Red Lantern" was banned in China due to its symbolic references to the power wielded by Bejing, so that may explain why it took so long for a legitimate company such as MGM to obtain permission to release.

RECOMMENDATION: If you get the MGM World Films version, watch and enjoy. If you get the Razor version, it's better used as a beer coaster.
September 12, 2010
Lovely movie. Terrible ending. I'm glad I wasn't born during that time period or in that type of culture.
July 24, 2010
This is what happens whan Yimou Zhang makes a movie without the Chinese government pulling the strings, a pretty incredible piece of work all things considered. But the subtitling on the DVD was awful. Forgive me for not speaking Chinese but couldn't you find somebody who knows the difference between "met" and "meet"? Certain scenes were almost ruined because I was laughing at the subtitles. . .
June 14, 2010
I watched this movie for an assignment and loved it. It's about Chinese concubines and emotional and mental stress it causes on the women. I believe this is a must see.
May 21, 2009
colorful, elegant, and subtly menacing. very strong performances given to very strong, intense characters. the cinematography was especially outstanding--extended stationary shots, distance shots, angles that only emphasize certain characters (notice how the master is never seen in a completely unobstructed view). combined with the various colors and lighting, the film's best element is purely visual. the softly intriguing storytelling and the emotional acting are just icing on the cake.
July 23, 2008
Very, very well done, and very believable. Only problem is the sad ending... oh, well. I guess that just makes it more realistic.
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