Ju Dou

Director: Yang Feng-Liang, Zhang Yimou
Screenwriters: Liu Heng

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Zhang Yimou’s classic tale of doomed love, Ju Dou, exhibits the kind of stylistic flair and dramatic force (in conjunction with political edge and subtext) that is characteristic of much of the “Fifth Generation’s” filmmaking. The film presents a portrait of a Chinese woman whose strength and courage in the face of an “ageless” repression are a powerful indictment of the modern social order, which has made little change from the past. The narrative presents the familiar triangle of an old, embittered husband, his young wife and her secret lover. But after her pregnancy and the birth of her child and the subsequent crippling of her husband, the wife’s relationship with her lover emerges from the shadows and is literally displayed for all.

This passionate drama features Gong Li in an award-winning performance that is at once both erotic and powerful, rebellious and majestic. Once again Yimou’s color schemes are sumptuous and striking, their red and yellow tones combining with beautifully composed frames of tanks of dye and cotton bales. As the tangled web of relationships unravels with tragic implications, historical metaphors become more apparent. Zhang Yimou’s work resonates with history. His mix of drama and cutting truth makes him his country’s most vital film artist.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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