Set in the 1920s the film opens with university student Songlian (Gong Li) being sold off to a wealthy master. Her arrival as Fourth Mistress causes ripples within the opulent compound and before too long Songlian is ensconced in a fiercely competitive game between the concubines. As each mistress vies for the master’s attention, the deception and rivalry ratchets to breaking point.
Yimou managed to make his film with the help of international financing from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The renowned director, Hou Hsiao-Hsien - who Yimou had met with Chen Kaige in 1985 - served as producer. This independence coupled with the thinly veiled political messaging of Raise the Red Lantern meant that once again, Yimou ran afoul of authorities and the film was banned. On international release the film was widely praised with the New York Times noting it was “as visually striking as it is dramatically effective.”
A film of exceptional formal beauty and elegance, Raise the Red Lantern continues to endure as one of Zhang Yimou and Gong Li’s finest artistic collaborations.
“Gong Li delivers a performance of exquisite expressiveness that, like the film itself, is unnerving in its emotional nakedness.” Rolling Stone
ACMI are pleased to present an archival 35mm print of Raise the Red Lantern courtesy of The Academy Film Archive.
Raise the Red Lantern
9 Mar + 15 Mar
Su Tong’s 1990 novel, Wives and Concubines was the starting point for Zhang Yimou’s internationally acclaimed fourth feature.
Winner of numerous international awards including the 1991 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion for Best Director and the 1992 New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Foreign Language Film, Raise the Red Lantern marks Yimou’s second Academy Award® nomination.