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

The Road Home (1999)

The Road Home is Yimou Zhang’s sweetest film.  It introduced another person with the Zhang surname (as far as I’m aware, they are not related), the beautiful and talented Ziyi Zhang.  Ziyi Zhang might be the most recognized Chinese actress in the world, with such roles as those in The Grandmaster, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, and Memoirs of a Geisha under her belt.  But, her role in this movie will always be my favorite of hers.  It is Ziyi Zhang at her youngest, playing a child caught up in childish things. Continue reading

To Live (1994)

In light of my recent case study on the anthropological benefits of watching Yimou Zhang movies, I will now review the four Yimou Zhang films that appear in my list of the 555 greatest movies.  In order to maintain consistency and help this blog make sense, I will try to remain focused on the anthropological elements that were discussed in the chapter that introduced this section.  However, I will also dabble a little in the usual banalities: we will examine what makes these movies so great as movies, independent of whatever cultural elements they might introduce to us.  With that being said, it is important to retain in our minds the entire argument that I put forward in the case study: a movie is great when it causes us to connect with the mind of its maker.  When the movie’s auteur is precise with his decisions, and takes care of his story, its images and characters, then a movie is great.  I submit that not only do Zhang’s movies give us good culture, they film the culture in such a way that we can connect with it, and, by extension, with him. Continue reading