Movie of the Week: Red Sorghum (1987)

Zhang Yimou directs Gong Li, Jiang Wen and Teng Rijun in this epic romance where an organised marriage between a girl and a leper rice wine maker transforms a community when an unlikely suitor seduces her instead.

Just magical. Yet also earthy and adult. The film has the feel of an old fable and a slightly tongue-in-cheek Birth of the Communist Nation. I’m sure the Government officials at the time weren’t overjoyed with the depiction of thieves, drunks and lusty outsiders shaping their rise but the end result is so positive. There is a massive tonal shift in the last act… we go from bawdy and unpredictable peasant romance (with occasional kidnappings) to the Japanese invasions and brutal tortures. But maybe as we have been so fully invested in Gong Li’s tenacious go-getter and the down-to-earth people around her that to see their labour threatened so violently by outside forces means we truly care. Most war films only pay lip service to the back stories of those affected by international violence, here it is a true disruption to another tale. Wondrous use of vivid colour, pastoral location, weathered faces and traditional Chinese music combine to make a truly seductive, unique piece of cinema. Red Sorghum is almost a musical, it is so full of song and personality. But then a musical where a man is skinned alive.


Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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