The Coastside Film Society screens "Red Sorghum" Friday, Nov. 30.
The film opens with a scene of a young woman nestled deep within a sedan chair as it winds its way through the arid landscape of Northeastern China in the 1920s.
The porters cheerfully sing ribald songs celebrating the beauty’s upcoming wedding. She is not so cheerful, dreading her first encounter with the old wine merchant that her father has arranged as her new husband.
She does not agree that his wealth more than compensates for his diseased leprous body. When she gets there she finds a life that is even more complicated than she could ever imagine.
In short order she falls for one of the servants, and when her husband dies pivots her devotions towards rebuilding the winery that is in fact on its last legs. I
n doing so she inspires her workers to take pride in the sorghum wine they produce. Then the Japanese invade, and her life changes radically once again.
The film was brought to the Film Society by Jenny Lau of the Cinema Department at San Francisco State. Professor Lau, a well-known scholar of Asian cinematography will introduce the film and lead the after screening discussion.
The dialog is in Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles. This film includes violence and adult themes and is not appropriate for young children.
“'Red Sorghum' is beautiful, visually but with that extra edge of human darkness; lust, greed, violence, death, murderous invaders, all set within or close to the wavering seas of sorghum grasses, grown for making a blood-red wine … A story that starts simply but builds into a brazen attack on the senses, the superb use of colour mixing with excellent dramatic acting, slow-moving and evocative long takes and occasional bursts of action - and some comedy, good natural comedy that's actually a joy and which breaks down any boundaries concerned with race, or time.” — Tim Kinder, IMDB.com
“Red Sorghum has no desire to be subtle, or muted; it wants to splash its passionate colors all over the screen with abandon, and the sheer visual impact of the film is voluptuous… Hollywood doesn't make films like this anymore, because we have forgotten how to be impressionable enough to believe them.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times