Monday 9 November 2015

A weekend of Zhang Yimou

I’m a huge Zhang Yimou fan and especially his films with Li Gong from the very first one I saw which was Raise the Red Lantern, so this week has been a trip down memory lane.


Red Sorghum was his first film in 1987 and their first together. His shots of the wild sorghum fields are somewhat reminiscent of Tarkovsky. Li Gong plays the strong female lead who takes over control of the winery of the man she had been forced to marry when he dies. Narrated by her grandson, the story starts with her journey to marry the leper, her attempt to return to her family after having stopped the consummation of the marriage, and her return to the now dead leper’s winery, persuading the staff to stay on, their successful wine harvest and the arrival of the Japanese army to build a road and their destruction of the sorghum fields.  The films shows signs of what was to come from both director and leading lady.


Curse of the Golden Flower 2006 show just how far they had come together. Li Gong has mastered her craft. I am always particularly struck by her portrayal of strength and vulnerability, and this is brilliantly put to use in her role here as the Empress plotting overthrow of her husband and Emperor (played by China cinema’s legendary Chow Yun Fat) in attempt to put her eldest son and his second son on the throne. The Emperor however did not get to his position for no reason. He is trying to poison her at the same time. The intricate plot twists and the powerplays continue to the end. Yimou direction comes into its own with the battle scenes in the Imperial Palace grounds – huge numbers of warriors in scenes which according to imdb took 20 days to film  and which in my opinion rival Lord of the Rings in end effect – and in the marvellous introductory sequence as the thousands of Palace servants ready  themselves for the Emperor’s return from war. There are beautiful customs (it was nominated for a 2007 Costume Design Oscar but lost out to Marie Antoinette which I have not seen) and great choreography throughout – its just epic! If you missed it watch it now!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review . I am always looking out for interesting films to see and find there are fewer and fewer every year . These are going on my list ....