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Raise the Red Lantern (MGM World Films)

4.6 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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(Jul 24, 2007)
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(Jan 01, 1991)
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(Jan 01, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Songlian, an educated nineteen-year-old girl, is forced to leave college to become the fourth wife of a powerful, feudal nobleman and becomes involved in the intrigues and rivalries between his other wives.
Genre: Foreign Film - Chinese
Rating: PG
Release Date: 24-JUL-2007
Media Type: DVD

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He, Cuifen Cao, Qi Zhao
  • Directors: Yimou Zhang
  • Writers: Ni Zhen, Su Tong
  • Producers: Fu-Sheng Chiu, Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Wenze Zhang
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PMFS6O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,819 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Raise the Red Lantern (MGM World Films)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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