Raise the Red Lantern is a luscious period drama from Zhang Yimou, author of the brilliant To Live and the more famed House of Flying Dragons. It tells the story of a young college student forced to become the fourth concubine of a rich man, and move into his palace-style home, sharing life together with the other three women.
Mr. Ebert added this one to his Great Films collections and described it to be about sexual enslavement.
The events show the main protagonist, acted by a breathtaking Li Gong, understand her new life, which mainly revolves around rituals and customs designed to serve The Master of the house. The four concubines are made to perform a daily ritual. They wait in front of their part of the house until a servant comes, and by placing a red lantern, he indicates the one chosen by The Master to spend the night with. We never see the face of The Master, and he gradually becomes abstract, the idea of the system in place.
The film is a delicate fable about life inside golden cages, about being a woman in male dominated societies. It’s beautifully shot, symmetric in composition and saturated in colour. Asia is a great place for cinema.