Ju Dou (1990) – Yimou Zhang and Fengliang Yang

The beautiful, romantic and tragic Ju Dou is the next title on the What Else to Watch list as I continue to work my way through the immensely enjoyable The Movie Book from DK Canada. Following my screening of Raise the Red Lantern, this was one of the book’s recommendations.

Starring Li Gong as the titular Ju Duo, the film follows the young woman’s arrival in a dye house run by the abusive and miserly, Jin-shan (Wei Li), who only wants Ju Duo to provide him with a son, despite his inability to be involved in the process.

Working in the dye house is Tian-qing (Baotian Li), who has fallen in love with Ju Dou, and the two begin an affair together, which results in a child.

But abuse, and tragedy can run in cycles, as the couple trapped by family tradition, soon find their lives, love and relationships with one another, as well as their young son in dire jeopardy.


The film is gorgeous to look at, as the set design, and lighting make the most of the location they shoot in, providing for striking and lovely imagery that serves as a perfect backdrop to the emotional tale being played out.

Li Gong is simply stunning, and again completely captivates while she is on screen, and the emotion the couple goes through as their truth becomes known first to Jin-Shan, and then suspecting people in the village is truly heart-wrenching to behold.

Ju Duo and Tian-qing are wonderful and perfect together, but it seems everything in society, and their own lives is going to prevent them from achieving a life of peace and contentment in the dye house.

This one works brilliantly, and it was a delight to watch, as it was yet another film that I had not even heard of, and now after having viewed it, I ask myself, once again, how that is possible.

A moving and stunning watch, there is a tragic love story at the center of the film, brought to life by fantastic actors and a pair of directors who make the story, and the characters their priority, Letting the film play out as it must, even if it doesn’t give the happy ending western audiences may long for.

And that is the beauty of cinema, introducing us to different cultures, and different ways to tell stories. This one is so worth the watch, the imagery that brings the film to life is gorgeous to see, and the performers bring a reality to their characters that makes you feel for them, and mourn for the way things play out.

DK Books’ The Movie Book is filled with amazing films like this, so perhaps you should pick up a copy and find a new classic to watch tonight!


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