The stuff of legend, Zhang Yimou's film satisfies both as straight folk tale and as a subversive tribute to the vitality and endurance of Chinese peasant culture. Set in a remote Northern province in the '20s and '30s, the story is narrated by a man who remembers the lives and times of his grandparents. A girl is waylaid and ravished in a field, en route to an arranged marriage with an elderly, leprous winemaker. He mysteriously dies, and her ravisher eventually lives with her so that together they may make the red sorghum wine. As the film develops, the tone shifts from light to dark, humour giving way to horror and sacrifice with the arrival of Japanese forces. Formerly a cameraman, Zhang fills the 'Scope screen with rich, sensuous images that illuminate and celebrate peasant life (waving sorghum fields, an eclipse of the sun), and uses actors, music and colour in a deeply expressive way. This, his debut as a director, confirms him as one of the finest and most versatile of China's 'Fifth Generation' film-makers.
Cast and crew
Chen Jianyu, Zhu Wei, Mo Yan
Gong Li Jiang Wen Teng Rujun Liu Ji Qian Ming Ji Chunhua