Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

This is a movie with a simple plot, if you can call it a “plot”.  It’s more of an examination, a look-in on the life of an interesting and sad character.  This is a movie about a woman named Songlian, who is sent to an early twentieth-century harem to be a concubine to the rich landlord.  It’s simple enough.  There’s no real plot in terms of beginning, middle, and end.  It is mostly a documentary of her life—and her decline—as she struggles with the hostility of such an objectified existence. Continue reading

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005)

Of all Yimou Zhang’s films of the last decade, the best is Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.  For some strange reason, this movie never gained the traction that some of his other films have made.  From the dramas of the early nineties (like Raise the Red Lantern and To Live) to the martial arts films of the 2000s (like House of Flying Daggers and Hero), Zhang’s popular films are well known.  But a mid-2000s contemporary drama?  Not as much.  Ultimately, Zhang’s best work has been in period pieces.  In Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, he has never been more modern. Continue reading