215 of 217 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2007
There is no need for me to praise the movie. It's one of the best movies ever made. I am here to clarify some information so that others won't be too confused.
Last year (January 2006) Razor Digital Entertainment released the DVD version of Raise the Red Lantern, with the poorest quality one can imagine: red isn't red (Raise the Jack-o'-Lantern), black isn't black, horrific subtitles, cropped screen, etc. It wasn't a restoration of a great film, but a decomposition.
This year (July 2007) MGM World Films released the DVD, and this time, I can say the problems are fixed. This is a much much better version. (Except the subtitles. I didn't look at them this time so I didn't pay attention to see if there are many mistakes)
Some 1-star reviews posted here in Amazon were referring to the 2006 DVD quality, not the movie. Some reviews said "excellent movie but do not buy the DVD" and that's because they were talking about the 2006 DVD. Now the 2007 DVD is out, you know which version to buy.
118 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
If there were any fairness in Hollywood, Gong Li would have won the Academy Award for Best Actress for any one of her many movies. Besides being drop-dead gorgeous, she is an exquisite actress of the first order. The opening scene, a close-up of her face as she resigns herself to her nihilistic future, will convince anyone of this fact. Raise the Red Lantern is a thinking, engrossing movie that dispenses with special effects and overwhelming scores and concentrates on story and acting. Zhang Yimou is famous for delivering biting criticism of the oppressive, delusional aspects of Chinese society. Raise the Red Lantern shows one very strong, independent woman's attempt to overcome thousands of years of historic oppression in early 20th ca China. Women are collectables for rich men, mere objects of possession. The horrific backstabbing and betrayal is among the women themselves as they vie for most-desired-object status. When the human need for dignity and respect surface, the repercussions are catastrophic.
The plot has been well documented, although this is one of those movies where the less you know going in the better. Suffice to say the first thing you'll want to do once the movie is over is to watch it again.
It is disappointing to see a number of very mediocre movies receiving 4 and 5 stars simply because they shun the standard Hollywood formula, as if mainstream automatically equals bad and independent automatically equals good. The mediocrity of these films becomes apparent when compared to indy films of the highest caliber, such as Raise the Red Lantern. Highly, highly recommended.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
I was so upset about this DVD that I wrote to the distributor, and I've posted their reply here for everyone to read. They claim that they haven't gotten any other negative comments about the DVD (I doubt that) and I wrote them back and informed them about the 92 one-star reviews here on Amazon.com. Please write them and express your dissatisfaction with this DVD! Here is their response (sounds like making a lot of excuses to me):
This is Shelley Praamsma, our company, MagicPlay, has the privilege from Chinese filmmakers to re-release "Raise Red Lantern" on DVD again.
I am so sorry to hear that the video quality of "Raise Red Lantern" is somewhat a disappointment to you and perhaps to others who didn't share their comments with us. I would like to take this opportunity to express our apology as well as to explain and hopefully you will continue to love indi / foreign films and continue to support our efforts in bringing more foreign programs to you.
Yes, you are all very sharp recognized the video quality isn't good. It was a huge frustration for us to bring "Raise Red Lantern" onto DVD with an understanding that we may receive negative reviews toward this program, because the current licensor couldn't provide good quality of the master. However, we, ourselves, are the big fans for Gong Li, Zhang Yimou and have the privilege and the responsibility to make this program possible to consumers.
It is shame that there aren't "Good Quality" masters of "Raise Red Lantern" currently in the procession of Chinese licensors. It is no longer a problem of poor transfer, it simply a problem by worn master. We have gone through all the film prints and Beta kept in Chinese studio, they are all overplayed and have way too many more passes used on the film print than worth of keeping.
Even the VHS version released by Orion (MGM) and various DVD versions ever released in different labels, they all had poor video quality.
By this time when we re-issue "Raise the Red Lantern" again, the Beta master has already been worn. Chinese filmmakers wish to release "Raise Red Lantern" and make it available to consumers outside of Asia. We felt passionate to re-treat the film print and make it possible to consumers.
Sad to say that all the film have been prints kept in Chinese studio are also in poor conditions because of lacking temperature control and had way too may passes. We did the best we could to have film transferred onto beta, then compressed onto DVD. Unfortunately, the video quality can't be improved much.
At this time, we are checking in other country such as Japan or Europe if we could locate another film print or Beta whose video quality is better than what Chinese studio could provide. So that we could transfer the video and re-create a new DVD master.
We will keep you posted with the searching progress and will send you a new DVD we could locate a better master in any possible way. I hope that you will share this with your friends who also like our Foreign Film catalogue and continue your supports to independent films. More importantly, we appreciate very much for your comments whether they are critiques or complements and hopefully your foreign film library will grow along with ours.
Thank you very much for your understanding and supports.
MagicPlay Entertainment Corp. (WA location)
3312 Rosedale St., Bldg # 101, Suite #6, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
Tel: (253) 858 2483 / (253) 310 4751
Cell: (818) 468 3132 Fax: (253) 858 2071
Email: email@example.com Web: [...]
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
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 "Ju-Dou" release from this same company.
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I must admit that I feel very hesitant to write a bad review for anything, it just isn't my style, but this DVD was so outrageously bad, I just can't help myself. This was a beautifully filmed and very captivating movie that I have waited for for years with very high anticipation to come out on DVD. I was so very excited when I preordered it, but alas, the picture quality is terrible, and filled with flaws as is the translation. I don't even know where to begin on how bad the translation on the subtitles are, but some of it is absolutely nonsensical to say the least. First of all the movie is set in the early part of the twentieth century, and it actually uses the word "groovy", and in a way that would make no sense even if you were in the correct era. There are many flaws in the sub-titles that were not in the VHS movie, such as words left out that should be there in order to make sense in English, and they have substituted the word "mister" instead of the original "master", and "savant" instead of the original "servant", overall just a very poor English translation I am sorry to say. I don't understand why they didn't just copy the translation word for word from the VHS tape?
I don't wish to discourage anyone from watching this movie, because I feel it is a must see movie, and in my eyes, a must own movie, but I would discourage anyone from buying this rendition of it on DVD. I truly hope it is made once again in a quality DVD version. I will be waiting!
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2006
Raise The Lantern is a superb film by a very talented director, starring a wonderful lead actress. This DVD release (along with Ju Dou from the same company) is simply one of the worst DVDs I have ever seen - and I've seen some of the worst the format has to offer. How any company can justify releasing such a shoddy product is beyond me - it must take some effort to make the film look even worse than it does on VHS or the import from China. Amazon should refuse to sell it.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2002
Beyond being the story of a woman who decides to become the 4th wife of a rich man, this film also foreshadows the Communist regime to come. This film is full of metaphors. Each wife symbolizes something that the Chinese people gave up in order to obtain the economic equality promised by communism. The first wife symbolizes China's history and traditions, the second wife with her cut-throat, backstabbing ways symbolizes personal integrity, the third wife who gave up her opera career symbolizes the art community that became a sterile machine for turning out Communist propaganda, the fourth wife who gave up her university studies represents the loss of intellectual freedom and progress under Mao who was well-known for his hatred of intellectuals, and the fifth wife who has no story represents the future of the Chinese people. What will become of her? This question is left unanswered. The husband represents the Chinese communist government, micromanaging it's citizens and even forcing them to live in compounds. The wives never know from one day to the next which wife will be favored and given power over the household, just as it was with the revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries. This is a wonderful film with so many layers, you can watch it again and again and see new things each time. Highly recommended.
2/26/06 - I just got the DVD version and I must say that it is shockingly bad. The colors are awful and the picture has all those white specks and streaks on it. The subtitles are the worst. They were completely redone for the dvd and wow they are just pitiful. Every other line has some kind of grammatical/spelling or punctuation error. Sometimes the mistakes are unintentionally funny "Master, I want to bare your son!" The use of trendy phrases - "she just gives me attitude" - "what is up with you?!" - "Get real!" - literally made me wince. A terrible injustice to a wonderful film.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2006
Raise the Red Lantern is a wonderful movie with a great story. When I had heard that this movie was going to be transfered to DVD format, I was thrilled. And then I bought the DVD, and to my dismay, within the first couple of minutes into the movie, there were white lines and distortion. Since I loved the movie so much, I thought I would make an exception for the first few minutes, but as the movie continued, so did the white lines. I could not believe what I was seeing. The DVD copy of this movie, reminded me of the old movies I use to see years ago, when there were only 7 channels on TV.
And not only is the visual appearance of this movie distorted so is the sound. It's very harsh and nasally.
I am on my way out the door to return this DVD and ask for a refund.
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
Raise the Red Lantern is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful movies I have ever seen. The sets are exquisite tableaux carefully arranged, decorated and framed, and then shot from attractive angles. The scene as they drag the third mistress, kicking and screaming to the tower of death, with the snow falling so peacefully onto the rooftops was chilling in its effect. The startling blaze of color, light and detail within the houses set against the drab simplicity of the courtyards, continually provided a contrast between life within the protection and at the favor of the master, and life without. This dichotomy is symbolized in the vibrant red lamps and the somber blue hue of the lamps when they are covered. In this manner, the mistresses are controlled. I was also struck by the sonorous beauty of the accompanying Chinese music.
But more compelling than the beauty of the film is the story Director Zhang Yimou tells, a tale of paternity and imperious privilege set in early twentieth century China. He begins with the newly arrived fourth mistress, 19-year-old Songlian, a university student who, because of the death of her father, is forced to quit school. She chooses to marry a man of wealth. She is warned by her stepmother that she will be a concubine. She replies, isn't that our fate? Her cynicism and then her robust energy in seeking her ascendancy over the other sisters engages us and we identify with her struggle.
What is extraordinary about Zhang's direction is how easily and naturally the personalities of the characters are revealed. The first mistress ("big sister") is too old to be of any sexual interest to the master, yet she is the mother of the eldest son. The second mistress, who has given the master only a daughter, still dreams of having a son. Her devious schemes and plots are hidden by smiles and fake good will toward her sisters. The third mistress, an opera singer still vibrant and beautiful (in a fascinating performance by the intriguing Caifei He), uses her allure in vying for the master's attention. Songlian, in spite of herself, finds herself caught up in the competition with the others.
Gong Li, who plays Songlian, is very beautiful with a strength of character that one quite naturally admires. She has the gift, as does, for example, Julia Roberts, of being able to express a wide range of emotion with just a glance of her very expressive face.
Serving as a foil to the mistresses, and perhaps as the most poignant victim of the concubine system, is the servant girl Yan'er, played with a compelling veracity by Kong Lin. She is occasionally (how shall I say this for Amazon?) "touched," to use Songlian's term, by the master, and so she dreamed of being the fourth mistress. But when the fourth mistress arrives, her dreams are shattered, and in her jealousy she hates Songlian and plots against her. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when Songlian, thinking Yan'er has stolen her flute, forces open the servant girl's room and finds it flooded with.... Well, you should see.
Note well that the master is only hazily observed. He is a personage, a man of wealth. That is enough to know about him. He is as interchangeable as the harem masters on a beach of elephant seals. But because he has wealth, he can engage concubines who must compete with one another through him to find their station in life. One gets a sense of what it might be like in the harem system practiced by gorillas or the sheiks and warlords of old. One pleases the master not because one loves the master (although one does of course because humans tend to love their masters) but because in pleasing the master one rises above the others. Thus the triumphant call, "Light the lanterns in the third house!"
Most people no doubt lament the life of the mistresses. Yet women in poor places may wish such a life upon themselves. But concubines are just prostitutes, really, one might say, trapped by a system of male privilege. But I would remind those who see only that, that for every wife the "master" has, that is one wife another man will not have. The system does NOT favor males. It favors wealth and privilege. In such a system there are many men without wives, fomenting unrest, which is one reason modern states forbid polygamy. What does a man do with the capital he accumulates or inherits? If the system allows, he spends it on women and the assurance of his paternity. And why is that possible? Because many women--Songlian is our example--would rather be the fourth wife of a rich man than the first and only wife of a poor man. Many women would rather be used by a man of wealth than rule the household of a nerd. This is the way humans are, and any sexist interpretation of this movie misses this truth.
The real horror depicted here, though, is in the brutality used to maintain the system, not in the polygamy itself. The women who follow the rules and beget the master's children, especially if they are sons, enjoy a pampered and secure existence Those who do not are dealt with severely, branded as mad, or even murdered. Note the similar experience of the wives of Henry VIII, for example, within the English system of serial monogamy.
This is a great movie, like a timeless novel fully realized, directed by a visual genius, from a script of great psychological power. Don't miss this one. It's one of the best ever made.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
Following all the other one star reviews for production quality, which were bad enough, my rant is about the godawful subtitles. Normally I wouldn't bother to comment about subtitles in a foreign movie but for this classic I have to, especially after waiting so long for the dvd to come out. They are an insult to any English speaking person, even a 12 year old, and really degrade the experience. A few examples, just from the last 1/3 of the dvd:
"we are like cates and dogs"
"don't be so groovy" (!)
"...I'll go get some liqeur for me..."
"she has just past away.."
"I don't understand what our live is all about..."
"..she has gone completely mad. Production credit." (???)
Also the substitles were completely omitted during the change-of-season announcements, which are Chinese symbols. The original vhs copy had these, and decent subtitles. Magic Play Entertainment obviously hired some Chinese child to do their subtitles, probably to save money. The less-than-even-bootleg quality has already been covered. Shame shame SHAME! I only rented this from Netflix but I'm going to tell them to stop until a better release is done.