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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Greek tragedy
The title character, a peasant sold as a concubine to a cruel old man, is played by the beautiful Gong Li, one of the great actresses of our time who followed this brilliant work with spectacular performances in The Story of Qiu Ju (1991), Raise the Red Lantern (1992), and Farewell, My Concubine (1993). Li Wei plays her master, Yang Jin-shan, the childless owner of a dye...
Published on December 29, 2002 by Dennis Littrell

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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, but
I second the reviews below. This is a 5-star movie, but the quality of this transfer is horrible. Parts of the movie are very scratchy and full of film debris. Worst yet, to me, are the subtitles. They are laughable. Almost every subtitle contained some error. While it was (sorta) fun to laugh and the odd subtitles, that tended to remove me emotionally from the...
Published on March 16, 2006 by J. Dunn


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, but, March 16, 2006
By 
J. Dunn (Aurora, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
I second the reviews below. This is a 5-star movie, but the quality of this transfer is horrible. Parts of the movie are very scratchy and full of film debris. Worst yet, to me, are the subtitles. They are laughable. Almost every subtitle contained some error. While it was (sorta) fun to laugh and the odd subtitles, that tended to remove me emotionally from the film. Too bad. The same comments apply to the "Raise the Red Lantern" release from this same company.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Greek tragedy, December 29, 2002
This review is from: Ju Dou [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The title character, a peasant sold as a concubine to a cruel old man, is played by the beautiful Gong Li, one of the great actresses of our time who followed this brilliant work with spectacular performances in The Story of Qiu Ju (1991), Raise the Red Lantern (1992), and Farewell, My Concubine (1993). Li Wei plays her master, Yang Jin-shan, the childless owner of a dye mill in the agrarian China of the 1920s. Li Wei's fine performance combines craftiness with iniquity reminding me a little of the late great John Huston with scruffy beard. The third character in the tragic triangle is Jin-shan's nephew, Yang Tianqing, a modest man who does most of the work in the dye mill. The pent-up intensity of Li Baotian, who plays Tianqing, recalled to me at times the work of Ben Kingsley. Ju Dou falls in love with Tianqing almost by default, and it is their ill-fated love that leads to tragedy.

In some ways this visually stunning, psychologically brutal film about paternity and the old social order of China was Director Zhang Yimou's "practice" for the making two years later of his masterpiece, the afore mentioned, Raise the Red Lantern, one the greatest films ever made. The theme of patriarchal privilege is similar, and in both films Gong Li portrays a young concubine required to bear a son and heir to a cruel and ageing man of means. Even though the setting in both films is China in the twenties before the rise of Communism, both films very much annoyed the ageing leadership of Communist China and were censured (Ju Dou was actually banned), ostensibly for moral reasons, but more obviously because of the way they depicted elderly men in positions of power.

Ju Dou is the lesser film only in the sense that Sirius might outshine the sun were the two stars placed side by side. Both films are masterpieces, but for me Ju Dou was difficult to watch because of the overt cruelty of the master, whereas in Raise the Red Lantern, Yimou chose to keep the more brutal aspects of the story off camera. In a sense, then, Raise the Red Lantern is the more subtle film. It is also a film of greater scope involving more characters, infused with an underlining sense of something close to black humor. (The very lighting of the lanterns was slyly amusing as it ironically pointed to the subjugation.)

In Ju Dou there is virtually no humor and the emphasis is on the physical brutality of life under the patriarchal social order. Ju Dou is beaten and tortured while we learn that Jin-shan tortured his previous wives to death because of their failure to bear him an heir. The terrible irony is that it is Jin-shan who is sterile. He feels shamed in the eyes of his ancestors because the Wang line will die out with him. But a child is finally born through Ju Dou's illicit affair with Tianqing. (Note that this conjoining in effect saves Ju Dou's life.) Jin-shan thinks the infant is his son and briefly all is serenity. However, while two may live happily ever after, three will not. Notice too that now that Jin-shan has an heir, nephew Tianqing will inherit nothing.

Will they kill Jin-shan? Will fortuitous events put him out of the picture? Will they find happiness? Will the boy learn the truth about his paternity? Yimou's artistry does not allow superficial resolution, you can be sure.

Note the two significant turns the film takes early on. One comes after Ju Dou discovers that Tianqing has been spying on her through a peep hole as she goes about her bath. At first she is mortified, and then sees this as a chance to show him the scars from the torture she endures daily, and then she shows him her body to allure him. The other turn comes as the child pronounces his first words by calling the old man "Daddy." Instantly Jin-shan, now confined to a wooden bucket that serves as a wheelchair, divines a deep psychological plan to realize his revenge. He embraces the child as his own, hoping to turn the boy against the illicit couple.

The strength of the film is in the fine acting, the beautiful sets, the gorgeous camera work, and in the unsentimental story that does not compromise or cater to saccharin or simplistic expectations. Yimou is a visual master who turns the wood gear- and donkey-driven dye mill of the 1920s into a tapestry of brilliant color and texture. Notable is the fine work that he does with the two boys who play the son at different ages. He has them remain virtually mute throughout and almost autistically cold. Indeed part of the power of this film comes from the depiction of the character of the son who grows up to hate who he is and acts out his hatred in murderous violence toward those around him.

Zhang Yimou is one of the few directors who can bring simultaneously to the silver screen the power of an epic and the subtlety of a character study. His films are more beautiful than the most lavish Hollywood productions and as artistically satisfying as the best in world cinema. The only weakness in the film is perhaps the ending which is played like a Greek tragedy for cathartic effect. One senses that Yimou and co-director Yang Fengliang in choosing the terminus were not entirely sure how this tale should end and took what might be seen as an easy way out.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, January 26, 2001
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
This was the first Gongi Li film I saw and its visually beautiful with an unforgettable story and sensual sexy portrayal which makes it stand out as exceptional. No one is making films like this in Hollywood. The chemistry between the Gongi Li and Li Bao-Tian is amazing. The story is however a tragic one. The mendacious but wealthy textile factory owner Yang Jin-shan (Li Wei) runs a successful business but has no heir. So buys himself a beautiful wife Ju Dou (Gong Li) However he obvious impotence leads to rages and then violence directed at Ju Dou who is trapped in a horrific situation. The charismatic but poor right hand man Yang Tian-qing (Li Bao-Tian) falls in love with her which further complicates an already explosive situation. This film is a must see with no easy answers at the end
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ju Dou: Razor D. E. lo-fi remix, September 16, 2006
By 
10K89 (The Midwest) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
Ju Dou is a great movie, I'd only previously seen it on VHS borrowed from the public library and was so looking forward to this release, but sadly I concure, this DVD is as bad as the other reviewers have previously stated. Worse than the old VHS recording I saw 7 years ago. So bad, that it's gotten someone like me, one who never writes reviews, to comment on it. This DVD should not be sold in the United States, or anywhere. Unfortunately, I picked this DVD up on a whim before reading any reviews.

I'd suggest you just cherish your memories of this wonderful film until a better transfer is made available. It was good to be reminded of the story, but very sad to see how carelessly Razor Digital Entertainment handled this transfer.

It really baffles me how terrible this transfer is. A few moments here and there the picture actually looks acceptable, but then the rest of the time it's blurry, washed out, monochromatic yellows and browns, lines and dust marks everywhere, and occasional digital glitches. This dvd has probably any bad transfer cliche you can imagine; more than I've seen anyway.

Yimou Zhang is a great director, Li Gong a wonderful actress, and it was from two beautiful films(seen only on VHS :( ) that I discovered this, Red Sorgum and Ju Dou. But heed the reviews, this DVD lo-fi remix of Ju Dou by Razor Digital Entertainment is a nightmare.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars STOP!!!! TOTAL RIPOFF, February 17, 2006
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
I just got my copy of this dvd which i was awaiting for anxiously having read the terrible reviews it has gotten last night and too late to cancel I cannot believe the bad quality of this dvd - the image is deplorable - it jumps, it has black scratches as if rain were falling, the colors are completely washed out and the sound is the worst I have ever heard or purchased. Be forwarned. I cannot believe the Zhang Yimou would let this product be sold with his name on it - the manufacturer should be ashamed for selling this and Amazon should give people back their money who bought this and accept the fact that is is not worth two cents.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware!, February 19, 2006
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
One of my all time favorite movies and a classic. The picture quality is HORRIBLE!! This appears to be a bootleg!!

Hopefully Sony or some American movie house will pick this up and transfer it correctly.

A pity!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The new Razor edition has atrocious color and contrast, February 13, 2006
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
The now out-of-print Pioneer edition was widely criticized for being full frame, but in restrospect it didn't look that bad. At least the colors were reasonably accurate. The new Razor edition tends to be overly reddish-orange, with harsh contrasts that at times obscure details. I've seen bootlegs with better quality. A great visual artist like Zhang Yimou deserves so much better!
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Grest Movie, but a terrible DVD Version, July 27, 1999
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
I am totally diappointed with this DVD re-production. The video and sund are the worst I have ever seen and listened. It seems that I am watching a movie from late 30s. I bought it, because it was reproduced by Pionner, the leading home electronic giant. However, they totoally screw up on this maganificent movie. There is not a single special feature on DVD, no trailer, no production notes, no nothing. Simply a scene selection, that is it. A totally diaster.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Film Marred By Horrible Presentation, January 11, 2008
By 
Bryan A. Pfleeger (Metairie, Louisiana United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ju Dou (DVD)
The films of Zhang Yimou are some of the most innovative motion picture experiences today. Yimou uses light and color like few directors of his generation. From my understanding one of the highlights of Ju Dou was the dramatic colors used both literally and symbolically. Unfortunately this does not come through in the Razor release. In this edition the colors are faded and washed out. The transfer is poor. It looks like a copy of an inferior PAL tranfer from VHS.

The film moves with the spirit of Greek tragedy. The downfall of the Yang family is told through the story of an illicit affair between the wife of silk dyer Jin Shan Yang, played beautifully by Gong Li and Tianquing (Baotian Li), the dyer's nephew. The affair brings about tragic consequences leading to thedownfall of the Yang business,

I wish I could say more but my copy of the DVD froze and would not play in the last two minutes of the film. This is quite possibly one of the worst transfers I have ever experienced. I have seen bootlegs that have been done more professionally. I addition to the poor quality the film is presented in the wrong aspect ratio, the subtitling is laughable, and the actual print looks like it was dragged along a concrete road leading to numerous scratches.

I would love to see this film as it should be shown. Unfortunately the film is not available to me in another edition.

Avoid this Razor edition as it is a true waste of money and a source of great frustration.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gong Li shines - As usual, December 22, 1999
This review is from: Ju Dou [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The beautiful Gong Li shines with this thought prevoking tale. A young girl (Gong Li), is bought by a man for his wife mainly to have his son to take over his business. The problem is that he is not fertile and an awful husband. She soon falls for a man who shows love for her and the plot thickens. The movie kept me guessing what will happen next. There were times I thought I had it figured out, but then I was thrown for a loop. I suggest to check out all of Gong Li's flicks, no flops for me yet! (^_^)
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Ju Dou
Ju Dou by Zhang Yimou (DVD - 2006)
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