Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Raise the Red Lantern: About the Film

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Rivalry, treachery and conspiracy abound in Zhang Yimou's 'Raise the Red Lantern', when concubine number four (Gong Li) joins the palatial household of a wealthy Chinese aristocrat, where his other three wives are already ensconced.

Within the household there are rules, and the rules are simple: Each afternoon, Chen Baishun, the master's valet, announces which wife the master has chosen to spend the night with, and orders the lighting of the red silk lanterns outside her quarters in honor of the occasion.

As a reward, the chosen one gets a soothing foot massage, the pleasure of the master's company for the evening, and the right to dictate the next day's menu. And simple though they are, the ways in which the rules are applied give rise to a complex and deceptive female dynamic in which nothing is as it seems.

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