Raise the Red Lantern (Da hong deng long gao gao gua) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

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

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½ September 9, 2017
Raise the Red Lantern did at times verge into becoming a soap opera. However, this is still an excellent Chinese period piece with a very artistic and potent approach to the cinematography and a layered, magnetic performance from beautiful Gong Li. Zhang Yi's direction is also phenomenal and the film is very absorbing owing to its thematically rich and complex narrative.
½ February 14, 2017
There are certain aspects of Raise the Red Lantern that I thought were great. There was a fair amount of intrigue and complexity in the relationships. I liked how they start by presenting the traditions that run this household and then show how the wives find ways to manipulate the traditions to get their way. The master of the house becomes a mere pawn that they move around whenever they desire. The director came close to never even showing the master, and I think that would have been awesome because he was such a non-character in the film. As for our protagonist, I kept hoping that Songlian would figure it all out. I was expecting her to be the clever one who discovered all the loopholes in the system, so that she could become the power player. Sadly, it doesn't seem like that is quite the story they wanted to tell. It left me frustrated with the story, and annoyed that the ending was so lackluster. I wanted more at the end, but it just quit without resolving much. The film is, like most of Zhang Yimou's work, beautiful. It has a number of gorgeous visual moments and he utilizes colorful items in order to accentuate the visuals. I don't think Raise the Red Lantern was quite my kind of film, but it was certainly worth watching.
Super Reviewer
½ December 21, 2016
A film of sheer formal beauty, with a gorgeous cinematography and an enthralling allegoric story about the subjection of women in a patriarchal society, but it is infuriating how it collapses in its last forty minutes, turning into a melodramatic soap-opera with a terrible ending.
Super Reviewer
September 28, 2016
Loved it. I felt so sorry for these women with no option but to marry a wealthy man and become one of his wives.
And then the unnecessary back stabbing of each other and the tragedy at the end.
Visually beautiful too with the lanterns and costumes. Even the opera singing was very pretty, which was surprising to me!
July 12, 2016
One of the most beautifully shot, superbly acted, and enthralling dramas ever made, "Raise the Red Lantern" is a cinematic masterpiece.
June 10, 2016
Beautifully realized, with immaculate cinematography, costumes, hair and makeup, Raise the Red Lantern provides a glimpse into a closed world. It's subtle, but the film also has layers of feminist and political commentary that run through the beautiful image. Exile, the home and power are central to the film that puts wives against husband, servants against wives and of course wives against wives. It's an intricate dance as the women all vie for the little sliver of power allowed to them. Gong Li is phenomenal, dominating the screen, leaving no doubt why she is one of the most successful and famous actresses of her generation. This is her film as muh as it is director's Zhang Yimou's.
May 4, 2016
One of the greatest Chinese artistic films forever.
½ March 20, 2016
Interesting story of the life of a concubine competing for the attention of her husband with his other wives. I guess that the traditions shown here a pretty authentic which is a main pull of the film as it gives you an insight into a world which not many people know about.
February 26, 2016
An incredibly crafted and atmospheric story about the harsh realities of being a woman in early 20th century China (and, by extension, modern-day China).
½ February 1, 2016
Powerful feminist piece about hierarchy and power. This is the third Zhang Yimou picture I've seen, and it's the only one I actually liked - I suppose because this film was released before he became an international icon, since the 21st century all of his films had large budgets but little soul. Raise the Red Lantern is critical viewing for students of feminism or any fan of Chinese cineman, by far the best one I've ever seen.
½ December 12, 2015
Raise the red Lantern or The Skull of the Master

While watching Zhang Yimou's "Raise the red lantern", I was briefly reminded of two other films, films that have little to no narrative connection with this one, but, in some sense, display some linguistic similarities: Ingmar Bergman's "Cries and Whispers" and Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", both great films in their own right.

On one hand, like in the case of Peter Greenaway's work(in general), the first way to get a handle on this film, is by following its craftsmanship. "Raise the Red Lantern" is not only a film of great beauty, but such a precisely executed one, that you can almost see the entire story through its shots, composition and use of color. Yes, unlike Greenaway's work, this film lacks the multiple references to art, because it does not need them. But there is a perfection in nearly each take, that hinds the eye of a trained painter(which Greenaway was).

And to continue with this parallel, while the opening act has its share of irony, it does necessarily follow that path and here is where Bergman came to mind: for all its beauty, the film is very cold, like most Bergman's works. And like most Bergman's films, this one revolves around close spaces, one might actually say that it is some sort of a Chinese chamber drama. And like "Cries and whispers", one can also look at the film through the way its protagonists interact. Oh, and let's not forget the haunting red present in both films.

But these parallels, indeed, are accidental and maybe too subjective.

As I said before, there is a strong contrast between the film's imagery and the film's overall atmosphere. Between the vivid and the livid. Outside its outer beauty, "Raise the red lantern" might be a rather unpleasant encounter. Outside a sense of grief and despair, Zhang Yimou's has crafted a beautifully, yet deliberated lifeless film.

In China, the red lanterns, among other things, are a symbol of joy(it is also, in some cases, a symbol of grief, but not in this context), but no one in this film seems even remotely happy., nor would they have a reason to be, for that matter.

Some of this is hinted from the very first act, in which there is a line revolving around women's feet and how important are they to her health and her further ability... to serve.

Another aspect that held my interest was the invisible male protagonist. Yes, I know, formally he is present, but we don't really get to have a good look at him, nor does he say something that would make him stand out. Of course, this is not the first character to be depicted in this fashion, but in most cases, such an approach prefaces a character wrapped in mystery. Here, the male protagonist is wrapped in irrelevance. We don't get to see him, because there is nothing to see. The few lines he has are bordering on the predictable and uninteresting. So, for a master - of any kind - he is woefully unremarkable.


And, since I don't like spoilers, I leave you with my conclusion and a Wikipiedia quote, that might be useful later on: overall, this is a masterful film, one that can grow on you, one that, in spite being cold and lifeless, doesn't lack insight.

"The Red Lanterns were the women's fighting groups organized by village women who were not allowed to join the men's groups during the Boxer Uprising of 1900. Villagers said these women had supernatural powers and were called upon to perform tasks which the male Boxers could not."(Source: Wikipedia)
October 19, 2015
An excellent allegory of 2000 year of Chinese history on the brink of sea change. It truly reached the unity of form and content through the perpetual secluded face of the male master.
½ August 2, 2015
"Raise the Red Lantern", set in 1920 China, tells a story of human tragedies involving women who are slaves to customs. The customs oppress them to the extent that they have very little room left for compassionate interactions with others.

Taking customs as given and immutable, they fight against each other to survive and thrive. The fights among themselves leave them no time nor strength to question the customs themselves - let alone to turn against those customs. Their minds are fully occupied by thoughts about people around them, and have absolutely no concepts about the structure that governs their interactions.

I didn't find the film very realistic or insightful at all. It is too operatic, too exaggerated, too artificially tragic, to give us much insight about the reality of Chinese society at that time. We see the characters only as pitiful victims of cruelty (imposed both by the structure and people). Yes, they have emotions and personalities, but they don't seem to have goals, or wishes, or a will at all. We see Songlian, the main character, through five seasons, and yet at the end of the film we still don't know what she wants. She remains as incomprehensible as ever.
June 20, 2015
A beautiful and, at the same time time, thought-provoking film.
March 3, 2015
Just during the beginning of the movie I realized it was not what I expected, step by step I got closer to understanding what movie it was. Emotional factor is very strong, it's not an easy film to watch, and it's not for everyone.Because this story develops slowly. Acting is perfect, the atmosphere is somewhat surreal and in the end it feels macabric and depressive. Still it's something what is quite natural for Yimou Zhang, just perhaps stronger than in most of his other movies. 'Raise the Red Lantern' is a masterpiece of film-making, and considering the fact it was made 24 years ago (it's not such a short time in the fast developing world of technologies) it is even more stunning. Simply adorable and incredible
February 11, 2015
Zhang Yimou explores with this beautiful film the story of a young woman who's married to an older man and becomes his fourth wife. Depicting the daily life of these women , forced to live together under the same roof and competing the favor of their master. The film is slow, very interestingly shot and filled with colors and symbols that gives a unique dimension to a film extremely well thought and executed. Gong Li is gorgeous and manages to portray her character with class, interiorizing most of her emotions that we will understand through her eyes and body language. It's film based on details and one must pay a lot of attention to fully understand what's going on. Raise the Red Lantern is one of these atmosphere films, calm on the surface but holding a storm of emotions on the inside and a vibrant study of the female condition in China prior to the cultural revolution.
½ December 13, 2014
It's the masterpiece of Mr Zhang Yimao. It's the most magnificent film of modern China.I strongly recommend it to you.
December 8, 2014
When i saw this I knew Zhang Yimou was an utter genius on a Kubrick and Spielberg level. Any fan of film has to see it.
October 23, 2014
Years ago, I simply recognized that it's a very sad film. But now? The film's flabbergasting plot points are just as intense as any murder in an Abel Ferrara work. Bitchy film indeed.
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