Ju Dou (1990): Zhang Yimou’s Oscar Nominated Feature

A slightly feminist streak runs through Zhang Yimou’s Ju Dou, a powerful tale of a strong young woman who rebels against her abusive older husband,

As a protest, Ju Dou has an affair with and get pregnant by his handsome nephew.  The old hubby assumes the boy is his, but the child grows up gating and rebellious just as his mother.

The gorgeous looking Gong Li (Yimou’s real-life companion for years) gives a splendid performance here.  She had previously starred in Yimou’s “Red Sorghum” and later starred in his 1992 masterpiece, “Raise the Red Lantern.”

Like all of Yimou’s films of that era, “Ju Dou” is visual stunning and marked by an elaborate and nuanced mise-en-scene.

Yimou was a regular festival presence, but was “discovered” by Western (and American) audiences rather late.  As a result, most of his movies were shown a year or two after they were made.

At the time, “Ju Dou” was perceived as a political allegory of China’s totalitarian regime, and thus the filmmakers were reprimanded, banned, and disciplined.

But Yimou’s films continued to be shown regularly and to win awards in major film festivals around the world, including Cannes.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Foreign Language Picture

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The surprise winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar was “Journey of Hope” from Switzerland.

The other contenders in this category were all superior to the winner: “Cyrano De Bergerac” from France, “Nasty Girl” from Germany, and “Open Door” from Italy.