Sunday, 23 March 2014
Red Sorghum (4½ Stars)
"Red Sorghum", released in 1987, was the first film directed by Zhang Yimou. It was also the first film role of Gong Li, who is now recognised as one of China's greatest actresses. It was a bold move to give an inexperienced actress the leading role, but it was successful.
The film, based on a true story, is narrated by an unseen man who tells the story of his grandmother, Little Nine, in the 1930's. Against her wishes her poor father arranges for her to marry a rich old man who owns a distillery that makes sorghum wine. Three days after the wedding she has an affair with a poor sedan carrier. While she is with him her husband is murdered by an unknown assailant, so Little Nine inherits the distillery. Soon after this she marries the sedan carrier, and under her leadership the wine becomes better than ever. Things go well until nine years later, when the Japanese invade and force the sorghum fields to be cut down to build a highway.
The film was obviously made with a smaller budget than Zhang Yimou's later films, but it shows the sparks of genius that would characterise his later work.