Red Sorghum 1987

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(23) IMDb 7.5/10
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In 1930s China, a young woman is sent by her father to marry the leprous owner of a winery. In the nearby red sorghum fields she falls for one of his servants. When her husband dies she inherits the business. The dialogue is minimal, the sets sumptuous and the acting mesmerising in this delightful film.

Starring:
Gong Li,Wen Jiang
Runtime:
1 hour 28 minutes

Red Sorghum

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Product Details

Genres Military & War, Drama, International
Director Yimou Zhang
Starring Gong Li, Wen Jiang
Supporting actors Rujun Ten
Studio The Movie Partnership
BBFC rating Suitable for 15 years and over
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By 72trails of smoke on 19 Jan 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I can't say how pleased I was when I saw that Red Sorghum was to be released on UK dvd. At last a modern edition to replace the ancient Palace video from the late 80's. Sadly however this disc is pathetic, a disgrace - it is essentially the same old Palace version (taken I believe from an old Channel 4 broadcast) slung onto disc with no care taken as to quality control and with a picture as grainy as that implies. This also means for your money you get a film incorrectly letterboxed at about 16/9 but with the frame moved up towards the top of the screen and with burned on subs underneath. In other words if you have a widescreen TV you cannot expand the picture and have to watch the film in 4/3!
(There is a Chinese edition available which at least is letterboxed properly but unfortunately fails to subtitle the songs - which are very important dramatically - and also, at least the copy I have, is of poor picture quality.)
If the company who released this could not afford to do the film justice then they really shoudn't have bothered - or maybe they don't care and just wanted to cash in on the maker of 'Hero' and 'House of Flying Daggers.'
Sadly the wait for a proper release of this superb film goes on...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ian S. Mowat on 18 July 2011
Format: DVD
A tale of violence, love, comradeship, and the horrors of war, this film is really strange to the eye and yet affecting and lingers in the mind long after. I first saw it on release in an art cinema and was knocked out. Now 24 years later it is still a great film for me and so I recommend it. But not for the faint hearted or if you like something that fits in a known box. The story follows the fortunes of a young girl sold to an ageing wine maker who suffers from VD. Her wedding procession is hilarious and sets the scene for the thread of love that weaves through the film and holds it together. Naively told yet it handles complex and difficult subjects.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "zhaoesq" on 31 Oct 2003
Format: VHS Tape
As I see it, this film is the epitome of Zhang's film language: simplicity in story-telling, simplicity in dialogue, non-extravegance in characters, use of local music, enhanced by landscape, a blend of realism and high-romanticism, all forwarding a sense of profound human emotions.
I must have been no older than eleven when I first saw this film, and the song the hero sings in the sorghum field still lingers on in my mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 July 2014
Format: DVD
Red Sorghum marked the 1987 film debuts of both its director Zhang Yimou and star (and future wife’ and muse of the director) Gong Li and, given its mesmerising visual qualities and its (near) epic, and increasingly powerful, storyline, is all the more remarkable that it emerged from such 'fledgling’ talents. That director (previously cinematographer) Zhang went on to develop his acute visual sense still further in films such as Ju Dou, Raise The Red Lantern and To Live and the later (more conventional) action pics, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, comes as no surprise, but Red Sorghum remains (for me, at least) one of his most innovative and engaging works.

Set in 1930s China and narrated in flashback by the grandson of Gong Li’s 'peasant’ girl Jiu’er (known as 'Nine’) and her mercurial husband Yu (played by Jiang Weng), as a 'mythical story from folklore’, Zhang’s film (initially, at least) has an intimate and ethereal quality reminiscent of Kurosawa’s Rashomon before opening out into something with more epic qualities as it takes in the decade-long story of Gong’s 'adopted’ 'wine’-maker (the film’s title referring, in effect, to one of her ‘products’), culminating in her country’s conflict with Japan. Zhang’s film moves effortlessly from being a (frequently comic) story of societal convention (as Nine’s 'innocent’ girl is initially 'forced’ into arranged marriage with a local businessman and leper!), jealous romance, bandit assaults (at times reminiscent here of Leone) and war-time conflict, but what remains unchanging are Zhang (and cinematographer Gu Changwei’s) stunning visuals – the film’s colour palette (frequently reds) never failing to impress, whether it be for the depiction of the amazing landscapes, sunsets or fields of swaying sorghum grass.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter Scott-presland on 18 Feb 2009
Format: DVD
For a long time, we have very little idea of when this film is set. A narrator talks about his grandmother and father, but we can't be sure whether this places him in the present, as the story-teller telling us. What we are watching is timeless, a folk-tale of the bride Jiu'er (Gong Li in her debut role) married against her will to an old man by parents who are more keen on getting a donkey (the bride-price) than keeping their daughter. She is carried on a sedan-chair across endless swaying pampas, bright red against the green. And so it goes on; the ancient ways of making wine from the red sorghum - a kind of sugar-cane - the ritual thanks to the wine god. A tight little community of men held together by the feisty young woman who comes to be their Mistress, but who insists they are all equal, and takes the name Little Nine. It seems like a way of life which has lasted forever, and it comes as a real shock when, about three-quarters of the way into the movie, we see a lorry for the first time, the Japanese invading the Chinese mainland in 1937. In the savage reprisals which follow, Jiu'er is killed and most of the wine-makers, and the way of life is gone forever.

The film works on many levels. On one level it's the story of a young woman who has to learn to grow up, fast, and a celebration of female independence and survival in a very traditional society. On another it's a lament for a lost generation and way of life. It's both political and personal. It is impeccably shot, and the ending, during an eclipse of the sun which is also an eclipse of everything we have seen, is heartbreaking.

If I don't give it five stars, it's because I have two criticisms.
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