Zhang Yimou - Raise the Red Lantern (1992)

[gong li] mel,
raise the red lantern is about ownership and allocation. for the gen 5ers making films was like writing for pravda. they could, they had to (to be seen as credible both in the own eyes and the eyes of those abroad) criticize the gov't, the CCP and the red army. the sensors would cut out or ban anything obvious, so they had to be subtle. their films, including RTRL, are allegorical, but not in the 1:1 snowball=trotsky of propagandic or didactic allegory. the subtlely's a sticky thing, im not gonna get into it on this crappy a keyboard, but think about RTRL as an emotional-affective recapitulation of the cultural revolution, and the very idea of forced cultural adaptation in general. ownership in the CR was an ownership of authority; the communes and the co-ops werent everyone owning everything, they were no one owning anything, except the person who had the authority to give someone permission to use "public" property or assets. the women being played off each other by their husband are, in some microcosmic and NOT 1:1 correlating way, representative (or at least indicative/explicative) of mao playing the red guard and the red army off the ccp, the businessmen, the intellectuals, etc., who were purged for the threat they posed to mao's power base. the women in the flick are reified into sources of entertainment; the esteem is calculated on the base of their worth, their worth on the ability to please their mutual husband. (reification is gonna show as misapplied via the singer's affair w/ the doctor, a manifestation of sincere emotions on her part.) if the four wives were left to their own devices they'd fall into a (perhaps shifting) hierarchy of influence/affluence, but since the husband, via old family tradition, can not only keep them in constant contention w/ one another, but actually break one's base of influence entirely (as when he learns li gong's pregnancy is phony) to reset the pieces (clear the board, level the playing field, any other idiom of yr choice). the fact that's it a red lantern is telling, but not definitive; red has ceremonial significance in various chinese traditions, it's a color associated with both violence and lust, while only the emperor could wear yellow (not red), the emperor wrote in red, not black (hence using red to both demarcate, which is the basis of language, and to decree, which is the method of authority). .... i could go on.


...and there's something to be said for the impartation of vitality and lanterns as such, for the rest a y'all, for the resta for now, for sha.