China, 1920. One master, four wives. A film based on Su Tong’s novel directed by Yimou Zhang, starring Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Cuifen Cao and Saifei He. The story we see is a visual treat but overlays a much deeper story of China in myriad aspects. This movie has it all, betrayal, conflict and tragedy, the story, the implicit attacks on the Communist regime, cinematography, direction, and acting (Gong Li was superb), one extraordinary piece of cinema magic that transcends both cultural and language differences. The film was so refreshing and exciting for me, yet it was also quite a dark film. The cinematography is exquisite, the artistic use of color breathtaking. I don’t care what anyone says, it belongs in the top 10 films of the 90s worldwide.
China in the 1920’s. After her father’s death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each of them living in separate houses within the great castle. The competition between the wives is tough, as their master’s attention carries power, status and privilege. Each night Chen must decide with which wife to spend the night and a red lantern is lit in front of the house of his choice. And each wife schemes and plots to make sure it’s hers. However, things get out of hand.