Acclaimed "Fifth Generation" filmmaker Zhang Yimou, of RED SORGHUM fame, delves once more into the past for JU DOU, his second feature, a haunting story of illicit love set in 1920s China.
Ju Dou (Gong Li), a virginal beauty, is purchased by old and rich Yang Jin-shan (Li Wei) to be his bride. When, due to his impotence, she fails to bear him the son he craves, Jin-shan vents his rage against his wife, bringing her to the brink of suicide.
Yang Tian-qing (Li Baotian) is the solitary worker in the textile dyeing factory that Jin-shan owns. He is a distant relative of his employer but treated like a slave nonetheless. Tian-qing, aware of the beatings and abuse that Ju Dou suffers at the hands of her husband, reaches out to console
her and quickly becomes her only solace. They meet clandestinely whenever they can and one fateful night, when Jin-shan is away, they become lovers. When Ju Dou becomes pregnant, the son that Jin-shan desires is finally on its way, but he's clearly not the father. Then, in a strange twist of fate,
the old man is paralyzed in an accident and left unable to walk. When the townspeople congragulate him on his newborn son, Jin-shan must accept or lose face. He is left at the mercy of Ju Dou and her lover, who pursue their illicit relationship to a tragic conclusion.
The "Fifth Generation" filmmakers began a new wave in Chinese cinema by emphasizing the visual and aural qualities of film rather than traditional dramatic and literary elements. JU DOU is no exception to this trend. The cinematography by Gu Changwei and Yang Lun highlights and accentuates the
unfolding drama; a painter's palette of color emerges in images that act as counterpoints to the story. By displaying the ancient processes still in use for dyeing cloth, Yimou makes full use of his early background in a textile factory; the splashes of colored fabric and the dyeing process itself
are an integral part of the film's beauty. The screenplay, written by Lui Heng, is spare and constant. JU DOU tantalizes all the senses as the story of the ill-fated lovers unfolds with hypnotic logic.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Acclaimed "Fifth Generation" filmmaker Zhang Yimou, of RED SORGHUM fame, delves once more into the past for JU DOU, his second feature, a haunting story of illicit love set in 1920s China. Ju Dou (Gong Li), a virginal beauty, is purchased by old and rich… (more)