Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Yimou Zhang
Written By: Ni Zhen, from novel by Su Tong
Main Cast: Gong Li, He Caifei, Cao Cuifen, Jin Shuyuan, Lin Kong
CHINA HITS A HOME RUN, FINALLY!
I can't tell you how much I was dreading this movie and is it any wonder, after sitting through "A Brighter Summer Day", "Farewell My Concubine" and "The Blue Kite"? Well, I'm happy to report that my dread was unwarranted, as I actually really loved this movie.
The film starts by giving us a lot of information - all the information we need to get started - in just a short amount of time. We meet Songlian (Gong Li), a nineteen-year-old student, who's father has just died and who's stepmother can no longer afford to pay her tuition. Songlian decides to take her stepmother's advice and get married and chooses a rich man, for whom she will be his latest concubine. She travels to her new Master's palace, following the marriage and we discover that Songlian is to be the fourth mistress to the Master. As the new mistress, she is treated like royalty, being chosen each night as the mistress whom Master will spend the night with and thus, receiving foot massages and brightly colored, lit red lanterns outside her door & around her room. After a day as the new mistress, Songlian is taken to meet the other three mistresses, whom refer to her as "Fourth Sister". The first mistress has few words, but is respectful to the new sister. The second mistress is almost too nice, offering advice and kind words for her new sister and the third mistress feigns an illness, perhaps out of jealousy for hew new sister. As time goes by, Songlian learns that backstabbing is the norm around the palace and people whom she thought were on her side, may not be.
Seriously, why couldn't THIS have been the film that ran for four hours?! I totally would've been down for even more of this and if I had to make one complaint it would be the ending. I know I shouldn't have expected a happy ending, but I really wanted one to emerge, somehow, some way. The mood and atmosphere are so bleak and dreary, however, that a happy ending here may have felt really artificial. Although, a faux happy ending, may have totally worked. By that, I mean just killing Songlian, because that's what she really wanted. Having her just go mad and wander around the palace for, seemingly, the rest of her days was a bit of a letdown, but I guess I can swallow that ending. Anyway, the film is pretty close to flawless, with some outstanding visuals that will surely leave your eyes thanking you for feeding them such beauty. The plot is totally there too and I was beginning to wonder if Chinese filmmakers even knew what an intriguing plot was. It was a breath of fresh air to see a Chinese film that didn't harp on the governmental oppression or the impact of historical changes on society and rather, just fed us a great film that I personally really feasted on. It was one that I gave a fair chance to, thank God, during a time when I had just watched a bunch of Chinese films that did absolutely nothing for me. It proves that you should NEVER short change a movie and always give a film a fair shake at winning you over.
The film comes highly recommended by me, as you watch these four women show the personalities of their characters. I've said a million times that I love films that could double as stage plays and this could totally be reenacted on the stage and I wonder if it has ever been? I'm seriously looking forward to "Red Sorghum" now, which I'll probably watch before the season is over.
RATING: 9/10 Man, I'm getting to be a real picky son of a bitch aren't I? I just can't seem to bring myself to give out a '10' lately.
MOVIES WATCHED: 772
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 229
November 30, 2013 3:33pm