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RAISE THE RED LANTERN – Zhao Jiping

February 4, 2019 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the enormous international critical success of his film Ju Dou in 1990, director Zhang Yimou sought a new collaboration with its beautiful star Gong Li. He was intrigued by the 1990 novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong, and hired screenwriter Ni Zhen to adapt it to the big screen. Zhang’s vision was to provide a stunning visual beauty, which bathed the viewer with crimson auras, graced with Gong Li as the film’s focal point. He submitted the finished screenplay, entitled Dahong Denglong Gaogao Gua or Raise the Red Lantern, to Chinese censors, which gave the project the green light without edits. Zhang proceeded to assemble a splendid cast anchored by the gorgeous Gong Li as Fourth Mistress Songlian, and who, after this film, would rise to become China’s leading film star. The film is set during the Warlord era of China, circa 1920. Songlian is an intelligent nineteen-year-old young woman pursuing a college education. It comes to pass that her life dreams are derailed when her father dies unexpectedly, leaving a bankrupt estate. To avoid liquidation of the family estate, Songlian is sold off by her stepmother to a wealthy land lord to become his fourth wife. While her initial reception by her much older husband is lavish, she soon discovers the grim realities of her gilded cage existence. Each night the Lord would order a red lantern hung in front of the enclosure of the wife he is honoring with his company. What Songlian discovers is intrigue, born of a fierce and toxic competition for Master Chen’s time and affection. The winner was rewarded with a foot massage, the decision of the next day’s meal menu, as well as enhanced status, attention and respect from the servants. When Songlian feigns pregnancy to gain Master Chen’s favor, she is betrayed by her handmaiden Yan’er and Second Mistress Zhuoyun, which results in her disgrace, and denial of the red lantern. Sadly, over time, her isolation and lack of fulfillment leads to despair and ultimately, madness. Read more…