When Americans think of Chinese cinema, they think of John Woo, Ringo Lam,Johnnie To, or the Shaw Brothers’ movies which are perfectly fine. But there’s a difference between Chinese cinema and Hong Kong cinema. They are two different worlds, and you owe it to yourself to visit both. Zhang was the man. He began as a cinematographer and shot Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth. He had the most consistent streak of the Chinese New Wave. And with his muse, Gong Li, they made some great films.
Red Sorghum – Taken from the books of Mo Yan (yeah, I’ve read it). This was Zhang’s first time putting Gong Li in crappy situations. It has wine, forbidden love and the Japanese invasion. Show it to your elementary school kids and teach them a little history (I’m sure Texas will have removed China from the history books). You’re gonna have to visit your favorite Asian import store to find a dvd. I don’t have my old, crappy VHS copies of Zhang’s films anymore.
Ju Dou – Someone called this the Chinese The Postman Always Rings Twice. This introduced me to the great Gong Li. This was also the first Chinese film nominated for a best foreign language Oscar. Warning: I understand the DVD version in is desperate need of remastering.
Raise the Red Lantern – Ya know, I get the impression that being a concubine wasn’t as glamorous as you’d think. Poor Gong Li, when is Zhang Yimou gonna cut you some slack?
The Story of Qui Ju – Sad and funny, and a completely different approach for Zhang. He was going neo-realist with this one.
To Live – Maybe it should’ve been called “Start the Revolution Without Me.” Y’know Zhang, if you’re not careful, the Chinese government might get the feeling you’re trying to slip some negative feelings about the effect of the cultural revolution into your films.
House of Flying Daggers – Don’t cut yourself.
Curse of the Golden Flower – Holy cats! Look at the colors in this thing.