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The Red Detachment of Women

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The film tells a story about a young woman named Wu Qionghua who is a Red Army soldier in Hainan Island and how survives the revolution and grows into the leader of an army detachment.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Zhu Xijuan, Chen Qiang, Wang Xingang
  • Directors: Xie Jin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Qilu Audio and Video Press
  • DVD Release Date: December 15, 2007
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000W0H5EW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,114 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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By Thibaut Mathieu on May 24, 2009
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The Red Detachment of Women is based on a real story that happened during the 30s where a military regiment made up of young communist women fights and wins against a rich and conservative governor.

The movie was released in 1961 in China and directed by Xie Jin.

It is absolutely not the ballet from the 60s that have also been adapted into a movie under the same title, it is a "realist" war movie.

The story itself doesn't turn out to be more than this short pitch even if it focuses more on the engaging characters. In other words, you will not be surprised by the story that was more made to edify the audience to the enlightenment of the communism. The lack of surprise in the story makes the movie turn out to be a bit long.

To me the interesting point in this movie is the direction, especially photograph and light directions that are carefully produced (unfortunately the film have not been restored, so the picture doesn't look as good as it must have been from the origin) This perfection in the light direction will sometime remind you of the best propaganda painting and photographs from the Mao era. Some interesting borrowings from the theatre are also noticeable.
Another interesting thing is the beautiful Chinese landscape that we have not been used to see from that time, as most of movies were not distributed outside China.

A last bad thing for this DVD is that there is no extra material.

To conclude, The Red Detachment of Women is a movie to see for its kitsch/retro pictures and ideology, don't expect more.

Please notice that this DVD is an "ALL ZONE" DVD and can be played in any country, not only in the US.
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This film, and the story behind, became the soil on which a ballet developed. This ballet became one of the central proletarian myths during the Cultural Revolution in China and the hallmark of Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing. She ended badly but the ballet has survived and is considered in China as a classic and is still performed. It is interesting to look at the film and try to understand the story behind this classic ballet.

The story is interesting in two ways.

First the position of women in the revolutionary army and in the Communist Party of China is in many ways ahead of its time in the 1930s and in China in the 1960s. It is a highly pro-women discourse that does not simply integrate women in the revolutionary army, but integrates them with their own battalions and army, the Women Army, as the subtitles say. They are thus separate and equal. We would criticize this today but in older times that was the recognition of the singularity of women, of their special needs and their special potential.

On that point the film goes as far as having a wedding in this revolutionary army and a subsequent birth. The baby is the baby of the Women Army as a whole. Women are thus celebrated as life givers. At the same time they play a crucial role in the final defeat of the landowners and the Kuomintang armed forces by moving in at the right moment to prevent the flight of the main landowner who is accused of exploiting people and putting them in slavery.

The second interest is quite different since it is the main orientation of the Communist Party at the time. It is the simple division of the world, of society between landowners on one hand and peasants and workers on the other.
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This comes close to fulfilling Wagner's requirement for Total Art. The cover is partly misleading. The work is mostly ballet, with some songs, set to quasi-Western style orchestral music, with some reliance on pentatonic scales, that give the work its "Chinese" flavor. It is one of the eight so called "model works," popular during the period of the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China (1966-1975). Some of the scenes, like the first three, are balletic in the Western sense. Other scenes were considered in their day to be very innovative, and relied on a new type of choreography for women, designed to show females as strong figures (as opposed to demure girls in tutus). The groups scenes are militaristic and proletarian, with the woman's detachment dancing with guns, and the male lead dancing with a saber.

Here is a wikipedia article with the whole ballet delineated by acts and scenes:

The Red Detachment of Women (Chinese: ''''', pinyin: Hóngsè Niángz'j'n) is a Chinese ballet which premiered in 1964. It is perhaps best known in the West as the ballet performed for U.S. President Richard Nixon on his visit to China in February 1972. Based on the novel of the same title as well as the film adapted from the novel by Liang Xin, it depicts the liberation of a peasant girl in Hainan Island and her rise in the Chinese Communist Party. The ballet was later adapted to a Beijing opera, and as the ballet itself, both stage and film versions were produced.
The film version of the ballet made Xue Jinghua (as Wu Qinghua) and Liu Qingtang (as Hong Changqing) superstars along with a dozen other artists who were cast as protagonists in other model plays of the time.
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