DIRECTOR: ZHANG YIMOU
COUNTRY: CHINA 1987
CINEMATOGRAPHY: GU CHANGUIEI
MUSIC: ZHAO JIPING
CAST: GONG LI
SUPER FEATURES: The Photography is excellent.
RED SHORGHUM is not the kind of film that you want to advise your kids to go see. Much like Zhang Yimou's other films, this one is beautifully put together, but when it is time to make it hurt, it does just so.
Politically, it is evident that this story is as much about the Chinese revolutions as it is about the Japanese invasions. And the ones that suffer are the workers, who are always prey to the events, regardless of the government.
Red Shorghum is the story of a woman that is married into a higher circle, and inherits a large wine making facility with it. And when she is there she begins taking charge of the factory and its good quality of wine. However, the changes have caused the wine quality to suffer, be it from the weather, or just plain bad work, since the wine master was changed.
In comes a worker that is attracted to the new mistress. And he is as reckless as he is in love with the mistress. But he is not a rich man, and has no property, and while he has been able to get to the mistress, his ability to keep her and stay with her are a problem.... that destroys a crop of wine... so it seems.
And later, come the Japanese, who destroy the whole farm, and everything else along the way. And this family is now forced to run and survive in any way that it can. With the invasion came the destruction of the main source of income for the area. The feudal lord system has won again. And the weak ones, the poor people are the ones that pay the price, although a few of the well to do ones are also punished and killed.
Zhang Yimou's film, is not pleasant in many ways, and it does get a bit gross here and there. But, for sure, it lays the blame down, either on the early government or the invading Japanese, but rarely on the individuals whose lives are manipulated every day.
And the love story, of the seemingly impossible conquest is what glues the whole thing together. It is a wonderful film, though brutal in parts, and really exciting in others. The photography, which seems to be Zhang Yimou's mainstay is plainly the real winner here. Be it in the factory, or in the fields, the show is tremendous.
And Gong Li is very good. As are the supporting characters.
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