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  • 1991movierewind

Episode #93: Raise the Red Lantern

Listen to Episode 93 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - In Raise the Red Lantern, Songlian (played by Gong Li) is married off to a rich man and becomes his fourth mistress. Upon arriving at her new home, she meets the other three wives who compete for their master’s attention on a daily basis and begins to learn the strict rules and traditions of the household.

Screenplay by Ni Zhen; Directed by Yimou Zhang; and showcased at both the Toronto and Venice International Film Festivals on September 10, 1991.


The movie starts out with a little mystery as a young woman resigns herself to being married off. We don't learn the circumstances until later.

We talk about the labyrinthian, claustrophobic nature of the cinematography. There is a lot of space given to the characters, but you never see outside of the palace walls

Even on the rooftops, the angle doesn't let you see much more than the tops of a couple trees. Still it's amazing how beautiful simple bricks and tiles can be.

Obviously the lanterns are a central symbol of the story and a lot of focus is given to their hanging, movement and extinguishing.

All of the four wives are stuck and so they play mind games with the others. There's a strict tradition that also must be followed, so boundaries are pushed to the limits.

Appearances can be deceiving and smiles can't be trusted.

When everyone is trying to cater favor with the patriarch, some people will do whatever it takes to get the benefits of his attention, and some people may just simply want it out of actual love.

The movie is simply stunning and subtle, just like the acting.

In brief moments, it can also be very raw and brutal.

It's difficult to predict where the story will actually go as there are so many different relationship dynamics at play, but we were both captivated the whole time.

Awards Talk: This was nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and won the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language. In 1993, it was Spirit nominated for foreign film as well. At the Venice Film Festival it was nominated for the Golden Lion, and won the Elvira Notari Prize, FIPRESCI Prize, and Silver Lion (director).


This week's movie was released on the same day as Motorama, so we've covered the TV & music before. So, we discuss a little more about the two film festivals that had competing debuts

Nikki also goes over this article about the movie being banned for a period of time


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 5 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 1/2 out of 4

Would you watch it again? - Yes, absolutely. We both loved this movie and it really makes us want to watch other movies from Yimou Zhang. The only thing that we would want to see handled differently in this film is to add some backstory to the wives because we were fascinated at the possibilities as they were all intriguing characters.

If you want to watch Raise the Red Lantern, as of this recording in December 2022, it’s available on Freevee, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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Join us next time for The Ox available on Tubi, FreeVee, Digital Rental, VHS


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