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Raise the Red Lantern
(Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua)
China - 1991
Directed by Zhang Yimou


 

Set in late Imperial China, Raise the Red Lantern tells the story of a beautiful and educated young woman, Songlian (Gong Li) who is betrayed by her mother and sold as a concubine to a wealthy lord.  Songlian learns that her entire world will now be contained within the walls of the estate, a world which she will share with the master's three other wives.  In order to gain status within the household, each wife must compete to have the red lantern hung outside her apartment at night, for that signifies the wife with whom the master intends to spend the night.

The sets and costumes are exquisite.  Fei Zhao, cinematographer, won Best Cinematography Awards from both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics (1992).  The use of a three-strip Technicolor process which is no longer in use in the US provides the rich reds and yellows that are notable in many Chinese films.  Raise the Red Lantern received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film (1992), as well as winning the award for  Best Foreign Film from the National Society of Film Critics (USA) (1992).  Zhang Yimou, the director, was awarded the Silver Lion from the Venice Film Festival (1991).

Runtime:  125 minutes

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