6th HOF-Raise The Red Lantern


Chappie doesn't like the real world
This is such a good movie. I am really looking forward to watching it again and seeing how others respond to it.

This will be one of the movies I re-watch. I liked it but I feel like I'd probably get more out of it now and Zhang has become one of my favourite directors. I think this was the first of eleven films I've seen by him.

I have heard of this movie but know nothing about it. For that reason, and because it's on Netflix, it will be one of the first 3 that I watch. With endorsements from Christine, Godoggo, and Sane, I fully expect a great viewing experience.

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
This has been on my to-watch list for ages. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available to rent or buy on dvd anywhere that I've found so far.

I chose this film because it's long been a favourite of mine. I'm very interested in China and Chinese history, and am a fan of the so called Fifth Generation of film directors who pioneered Chinese film into the West after the Cultural Revolution. I nearly chose The Blue Kite By Tian Zhuangzhuang which is also a favourite of mine, and is a more clear statement about the times during the Cultural Revolution, but went with Raise The Red Lantern instead because of the beautiful imagery and the haunting acting of the young Gong Li .

Thursday - you can watch the film on youtube here "https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qWtAK_YCrTw"
Or you're welcome to borrow my dvd but to be honest that's a Chinese import too so not exactly your Criterion quality!

This film is a favourite of mine, though ultimately it's very sad.

Don't want to tell you anything you already know, but a bit of background to Chinese films, after the devastating Cultural Revolution the so called Fourth Generation of film directors started again making films, they'd not been able to make films for so long during Mao's repression that they went back and spoke of the people to the people. The Fifth Generation of whom Zhang Yimou is one, gained their film education post Mao. Despite the strictures of the Communist government and sometimes having their films censored or banned altogether, their work started to reach the West. They were able to open up Chinese life, history and particularly speak of the hard times suffered during the previous couple of decades.

Ok so on to the film, Raise the Red Lantern stars Gong Li , Yimou's muse and lover who appears in many of his films. I think she shines through the camera. So much of the film is the camera watching impassively, there's no deliberate cranking up of audience emotions, just waiting.

When young Songlian sets off on her new life she is full of anger, it seems like it's her own choice to marry a rich man but with no father and a stepmother who doesn't want her, in those times with no dowry that would've made not much choice at all. Look how she turns her back on the marriage sedan that's come to meet her, we get the idea she's wilful and determined.

She marries into a family as the fourth wife, into a atmosphere made competitive by ritual and rules and presided over by the absolute authority of the almost faceless Master. The oppression is overwhelming for the spirited Songlian who makes some silly spiteful decisions that have terrible consequences.

The other wives are not all they seem. Their scheming finds different outlets. First wife is older, settled and confident that her grown up son is heir apparent. Second wife, Zhouyun is the most welcoming but her Buddha's face hides a scorpion heart according to third wife Meishan .
Meishan is a former opera singer, whose colourful former life is there to see in the decorations in her house. The crushing of the spirits of these two women Meishan and Songlian along with the death of poor servant girl Yan'er is the core of the film. Their life belongs to the master, as Songlian says " I'm just one of the master's robes. He can wear it or take it off " - how sad.

The colours and setting in the film are rich and beautiful. The contrasts of the clothes, the red lanterns, the snow against the plain bricks and rooftops is sharp.

I don't know how this film affects you, or even if you like it, but to me it's profoundly upsetting . It's set in the 1920s even though it seems feudal, but you can't help thinking that the Songlian's story is being played out in many countries even today.

Look forward to hearing what you think

I rewatched this a couple of days ago and as expected I liked it a lot more than the previous time I watched it.

A few things really hit me:

1. Gong Li is such a great actress. Through all of her films, particularly with Zhang, she is able to show great strength mixed with great sadness. In some ways I think it perhaps reflects her life outside of movies which, as with many Chinese actresses, has maybe not been perfect.

2. It became really noticeable to me that this was a comment about the role of women in society and that it may not be as obvious now as it was in the 20s but some women in modern China still take on the role of just being a concubine.

3. I had read that this was a comment about Chinese society and its form of communism but Zhang has denied it. I think it is because I found China to be quite a selfish society. Not really in a mean spirited way but in a way that everyone needs to fight to get ahead. There is the old cliche about communists being good at lining up for things - that is so not true. In the area I was in it was winner take all in regards to everything - the supermarket, getting on the bus. etc. I have never been pushed out of the way so often With this movie each of the women was struggling to get their slice of "happiness" and it made them bitter. To me that reflects a lot of the China I encountered.

Excellent movie

Ha Sane, we were at Beijing airport when our plane was cancelled. Before we knew it we were in a rugby scrum of people fighting to get to the desk to rebook onto the next flight - I never thought I was going to make it out and I've been in football crowds of thousands back home! But you're right, no one was malicious, and people were really kind when we were trying to find out what was going on.

It's an interesting culture. Very consumer driven, but understandable to an extent when you think of the privations the people suffered during the 50s and 60s . Sweeping generalisation but it's a funny mix of individualism but still strong adherence to the state

Just finished this. I don't know that I've anything to add that hasn't already been said, but it was a really powerful film and I'm glad I watched it. It's incredibly beautiful to look at and very well written. As Christine said, these characters are not at all what they first appeared to be and it makes for an intriguing and heartbreaking story.

I watched this last night, and I believe it was my first Chinese film. Even though I knew very little about this movie going in, I had slight reservations. My perception was that maybe it would be a story that wouldn't interest me, and I also thought that maybe it was more a movie for women. I think my reservations were somewhat well founded, but it didn't matter. It somehow managed to grab me right from the start, and I guess it's simply because it was just so immediately obvious that it was going to be a very well done movie.

I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to knowing anything about cultures outside of my own, so I often find it fascinating to get a little taste through a movie. While this helped me get into the movie at the start, my feeling was that this was a universal story about competitiveness and jealousy between women. I thought the setting just served to make this dynamic much more intense. *The up and down relationships between these 5 women were interesting to watch, and these relationships were*the basis for the unexpected drama in the film. I found it interesting that the master never really shows his face, at least not enough to know what he really looks like. I kind of looked at him as more of a symbol than anything else, but it could also be partly because his role in all this was secondary.

This movie turned out to be much more powerful than I expected it to be, and my attention never threatened to wander. The acting from all parties was exceptional. All of the technical aspects of the film were beautifully done. It's not quite the kind of movie that would be an all time personal favorite that I would watch over and over again, but I feel like I watched a brilliant movie, and one that I now have nothing but respect and admiration for. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was a terrific nomination, and I believe it's a movie that is a serious contender for this Hall of Fame. For now, I give it a very conservative

I knew Sane and Godoggo had seen it before and liked it, but I'm happy Vicky and Cricket like it too it's always a chance when you nominate something that feels quite precious to you that someone is going to hate it which would make me sad.

Cricket, I do see your point about thinking it might be a film for women, as a lot of it is about the relationship between the women. However it's women acting under the domination of one man and seeing him as a symbol seems right as he is a faceless representation of the male dominated society.

I'm very happy I nominated your first Chinese film

Yes Christine, I certainly think you're correct. My preconceptions were based upon the most minimal of information, and I feel anybody could enjoy a movie of this quality.

This is what I wrote about Raise the Red Lantern in my logbook thread.


I rarely like movies about cultures that I don't know much about because I just can't relate to their way of life, but this movie was kind of interesting. At first, I thought it was going to be a boring story about the master and his four mistresses, but as the story progressed, it had my full attention. Watching the way the women started out friendly, but then seeing the mistrust and the backstabbing between the women showed that there's a lot more to this movie than I expected. (It was like watching an episode of "Survivor".) I thought some of the penalties were way too harsh, but I guess that's the differences in the cultures.

I liked that we never really get a good look at the master. It keeps him as a minor role, and helps the story focus more on the women. The pace is kind of slow, but the scenery is beautiful. Unfortunately the subtitles were pretty bad, and I had to rewind a few times to figure out what people were saying, but at least the movie was worth it.


Chappie doesn't like the real world
This was as good as I remember it. I think Christine said somewhere that she became interested in Chinese history at some point. I also went through a period when I was sort of obsessed with it. That's when I first watched this movie.

One thing that I learned was that the position of the wives was very important so of course that is going to foster resentment and jealousy. This movie captures that beautifully,

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I had high hopes for this movie, and I wasn't disappointed. It looks beautiful, it's perfectly paced and completely fascinating.

The main character is not entirely a sympathetic character, she's haughty and spiteful, but it's all too easy to see how bitterness at the situation she finds herself in has made her cruel, the same could be said for the other mistresses as well. I think the story from the point of view of the maid Yan'er would have been interesting too, they seemed like similar characters in different situations.

I think the only thing that would stop this being a favourite is that there is very little light in the shade. There's no hope for Songlian, no joy, no love and in the end she betrays the only person who comes close to being a friend, it's pretty relentless.

A really good film, the one I've liked most of the nominations I hadn't already seen.

Desperate Housewives before Desperate Housewives. I quite enjoyed this Christine. The story is sad and the setting matches it perfectly. The performances are very good especially from the lead. You guys have covered all the bases. Christine even called the master faceless which was something I was going to bring up. I think that was a nice touch. Really added to the tone of the film and kept the women front and center. I also like how there are a couple hints that the lead and her stepson could become involved. The story never goes there though which is to its credit. These are the things that make it much more then Desperate Housewives. Good choice Christine, I can see why you love it so much.