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ROUGE OF THE NORTH

Taiwan, 1988 (MIFF 1989)

Director: Fred Tan

Taken from a novel by a renowned Chinese writer living in the United States, this is a highly controlled, beautifully visualised tale about a young woman's life portrayed over a twenty-year period. Shot entirely in a studio with three sets employed to mark the various stages of Ytng-ti's life, Rouge of the North combines a Sirkian sense of melodrama and the plight of women in society, with ngour we associate with Ozu's pictorial style.

The film is set in Shanghai in 1910. The beautiful Ying-ti is an orphan who escapes a life of poverty by marrying a rich, blind and very demanding invalid. His family looks upon her with contempt and their constant rebuffs drive her to attempted suicide. After her husband and dowager mother dies, Ying-ti continues her lonely life with her teenage son. As she grows older her embitterment grows and, ironically, she forces her son into a marriage like her own, Gradually, she retreats into the charms offered by opium.

There is an inevitability to much of Rouge of the North, lt is a highly critical portrait of a woman's role in traditional Chinese society. Like Sirk's films the convolutions are many, suggesting the random, arbitrary nature of life and the many diversions that life can cake. Beautifully refined and elegandy presented, Rouge of the North is further confirmation of the emerging strength of Taiwanese cinema. - Piers Handling, Toronto Film Festival.

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