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The Story of Qiu Ju
The Story of Qiu Ju
Buy New: $19.45
Buy New/Used/Collectible from $19.45

Avg. Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars(based on 29 reviews)
Sales Rank: 19983
Category: DVD

Actors: Li Gong, Peiqi Liu
Director: Yimou Zhang
Format: Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Ntsc
Languages: Cantonese Chinese (Original Language), English (Subtitled), Chinese (Dubbed)
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Media: DVD
Running Time: 92 minutes
Number Of Items: 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Shipping Weight (lbs): 0.2
Dimensions (in): 7.1 x 5.4 x 0.6

UPC: 043396141124
EAN: 0043396141124

Release Date: March 28, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: April 16, 1993
Availability: Usually ships in 1-2 business days

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Editorial Reviews:
The kick is never shown, but the entire film is based around it. It's winter in the remote Shaanxi province. Pregnant Qiu Ju (Gong Li, 2046) is married to laidback farmer Qinglai (Liu Pei Qi). When village chief Wang (Lei Lao Sheng) kicks him during an argument, she sets out to ensure that her husband receives medical attention--and justice. Clad in a bulky jacket, face partially obscured by a thick scarf, the strong-willed woman, joined by sister-in-law Meizi (Yang Liu Chun), travels far and wide to find someone who can coerce Wang to apologize (she asked, he refused). All agree the chief was in the wrong, but each authority with whom she meets hands her off to another. Along the way, the couple is offered financial compensation (for medical care and lost wages), but an apology is as elusive as a dragonfly in December. Taking cues from both Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves), Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) presents modern-day China as a country where bureaucrats run the show and the citizens--especially the women--must suffer the consequences. Fortunately, some are more persistent than others, and The Story of Qiu Ju is far from tragic. Just as their fifth pairing represents one of Yimou's rare contemporary efforts, the dressed-down title character is also an anomaly for Li, his real-life love at the time. The risk paid off and the result is one of their most cherished collaborations. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews:   Read 24 more reviews...

5 out of 5 stars One Woman's Quest for Justice   June 2, 2006
This intensely political and humane film, which I'd characterize as a dark tragedy, shows how strong Chinese women really are. Although males are more in demand in this China of 1992 - and still apparently are - it is the female heroine, played to perfection by Chinese star Gong Li ("the most purely beautiful woman in the movies," according to Vanity Fair) who has more power than anyone, including her poor husband whose honor she is trying - but failing - to restore. Even he is shocked by her staunch devotion to justice.

Director Zhang Yimou constructs the Chinese landscape with opulence and tenderness. Rich colors strike us, reminding us of the colorless society under Chairman Mao. The vibrant reds of the chili peppers, grown by the heroine and her husband, portend blood that will come later.

I was surprised that this film, critical of the Chinese bureaucracy and the government, was allowed to be made.

This is a film that does not end neatly, but ends with a question. I won't give the plot away but the final scene is worth rewinding a couple of times on the 1993 video. The last shot is a masterpiece which will long linger with the viewer. To me, that's the sign of a stunning film: a great beginning and a great ending.

5 out of 5 stars probably Gong Li's most challenging role/certainly Zhang Yimou at his most subtle   May 17, 2006
  2 out of 3 found this review helpful

Qiu Ju is a very simple, well-paced story. And Zhang Yimou tells it gorgeously.

The plot features a pregnant woman who decides to seek redress after her husband is kicked in the groin after an argument gets out of control between him, a humble chili farmer, and the local village "mayor" (the village here being a tiny rural community in Shaanxi province: think Yellow Earth) over his plan to construct some sort of building on his allotted plot. While both parties are initially bitter over the confontation, they each in their own small way concede their responsibilities in allowing the situation to get out of hand, and their mutual hostilities eventually subside as they both fully realize that it is their fate to coexist together in an extremely isolated social world.

Qiu Ju, played by Gong Li, however decides that no attempt at redress is enough to satisfy her conception of justice--and what later on seems more ambiguously to lapse into a naively quixotic quest motivated both by vengeance and stubborn pride.

Her obsession with justice, and her inability to accept its reality in early 90's China: the amicable resolution of conflict leading to the reestablishment of social harmony, and thus the affirmation of the status quo--leads her, a dirt-poor "country" woman to seek redress at increasingly higher levels of government. Qiu Ju's hope is for an investigation which thoroughly examines her "case" in the search for Truth, regardless of compensation. And this film in its own masterful way is the depiction of a "noble" ideal steadfast pursued, beginning as something heroic and ending up as something miserably petty and banal when pursued in ignorant defiance of an immensely complex web of human cultural, societal and political factors.

As she goes through the tedious motions of negotiating her way through a labyrinthine administrative organ, at once, socially Confucian and politically Communist, she finds that every step higher means a rejection of the previous level's judgement. Every verdict and attempt at mediation offered at one level, when appealled to the next level infers an indictment on those lower official's (albeit well-meaning) judgement. So when she is finally ready to open the ostensibly highest level civil-case at the provincial level, she, unaware of the political dimension involved in justice, finds herself suing and potentially disgracing a civil servant--who she has found to be a genuinely kind, accessible, and well-intentioned--instead of her "mayor" from back home.

Its at this point in the narrative her pursuit of justice becomes personally vindictive--she has serious reservations about the idea of bringing an innocent man to trial when she really seeks to put her old "town mayor" before a jury. Unable to accept the reality that the man she seeks to be punished can not possibly be punished within the prevailing context of saving face and representing the legitimacy of the body politic (the argument involved his enforcement of government policy) she resorts, without fully accepting the consequences, to a criminal trial, which involves a little exaggeration on her part.

Meanwhile the "town mayor" and the husband become increasingly close as the continuing litigation starts proving initially embarrassing, and eventually scandalous in its notoriety, as they are both alienated, and discredited, by the magnitude of the political attention brought to bear on each by Qiu Ju, whose actions escalate beyond each's control. The husband in particular instead of merely accepting the damages reasonably stipulated by the government by a man whom he has gravely insulted and no longer bears any real animosity, ends up risking his livelihood as Qiu Ju desperately has to sell off larger and larger portions of his harvest to make expensive trips into the town and finally to the city--ostensibly on his behalf.

This is one of the most "human" stories I have ever seen filmed, and potentially Zhang Yimou's most provacative movie by virtue of both its subtlety and its humility of presentation (at the opposite end of the spectrum the is sumptuous and timeless and devastatingly elegant Ju Dou). The cinematography, as expert as ever, is more documentary in style, looking like super 8, or PAL video from the 80's, and while not deliberately manipulating color for symbol's sake, allows the naturally occurring color and the immensity of the landscape, now both human and environmental, to negotiate its own level of significance with the viewer. This is the film only a very self-assured director could make.

While the Zhang Yimou trademark long shots, long takes, and patient pacing are here, they are not emphasized--except in the scenes where Qiu Ju begins another journey away from home. All of his trademark plot devices and character stereotypes, sometimes overwrought to the point of cliche--are here as well: strong-willed young heroines from peasant backgrounds struggle hopelessly against greater societal forces, often braving "modern" cities, while comparatively one-dimensional men get on with the process of determining a workable, prosaic life on an exhausted and completely indifferent earth.

Despite the standard plot elements and characterizations I can say Qiu Ju is where Zhang Yimou's handling of them approaches and occassionally surpasses even Ibsen or Chekhov in its ambiguity and its sense of naturalism; (and this is the same guy who grazed Euripedes with Ju Dou!) This is a very powerful movie, but recognizing that power will require some patience on the viewer's part.

Gong Li as Qiu Ju is probably her most difficult role as an actress (much more challenging than say Farewell My Concubine or Raise the Red Lantern), and she succeeds here brilliantly.

4 out of 5 stars The Story Of Qiu Ju   April 2, 2006
  2 out of 3 found this review helpful

I don't speak Chinese/Mandarin, but ever since I seen Gong Li in the movie "Memoirs Of A Geisha", I've totally fallen over heels for this woman, so I bought the film "The Story Of Qiu Ju", the film is good, maybe if the ending was more explainable the movie would have been better. The story of course is about a man who gets in a fight with the village Chief, when the husband is kicked in the groin, his wife Qiu Ju played by Gong Li goes to & asks the village Chief why he kicked him there in his groin, all the village Chief saids is that "your husband knows why" after finding out what happen happened, the wife still thinks that is no reason to do such a thing, so she asks the village Chief to apologize to her husband, but he refuses beacuse he's headstrong & he doesn't what to lose face/respect, so she takes matters in her own hands. Not having her own car because she's pretty poor, she walks to the city which is miles, & miles away, also she's pregnant and about to have the baby anyday now. The ending is a total cliffhanger to me because that one ending, sames to have two different ways you can look at it, so then what really happened?. I make it same so dramatic but it's not a dramatic film, it's a drama though, there is hardly any talking in it to, & the wonderfully talented Gong Li's character cares, but never really takes a stand & speak her mind in this film, although her character Qiu Ju loves & shows her family that she will do anything for them, which sometimes the husband doesn't seem to appreciate her & her love, also they are not a affectionet couple, overall it's a good movie, from famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The film is not in dubbed in English, even though Amazon saids it's dubbed, it does have English subtitles however. The film is in 1.85:1 Widescreen. The picture & sound is beautifully remastered, even though most of these Zhang Yimou/Gong Li movies on DVD have huge complaints about the sound & picture. No special features at all & the subtitles are made really good too.

5 out of 5 stars no title   February 18, 2006
  6 out of 6 found this review helpful

Surprisingly humorous; rich scenes of China today (or at least in 1990). The villages still seem to be in the Middle Ages. There was lots of noodle eating. And a very strong female protagonist. This was the third of Zhang Yimou's films that I'd seen, "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern" being the first two, and the latter is on my top 10 list of all time. This was more political, not as lush in color or sets, and a modern day time frame, but very worth-while all the same. Be sure and check out all his movies, for he is a director of note.

4 out of 5 stars You mean good people can be sued? Of Course!   January 2, 2006
  5 out of 5 found this review helpful

After a bountiful chili pepper harvest, Wan Qinglai wants to build a storage house for his crop. Having already purchased the bricks and tiles for the storage house, Wan Qinglai asks the village chief Wang Shantang permission to build the storage house, however, Wang Shantang never answers Wan's inquiry. Losing his temper, Wan states that Wang can do nothing more than raise "hens", meaning that Wang is a worthless man because he has no son. Angered, Wang beats Wan and even kicks him in the privates. This incident will eventually lead to a ball of bureaucratic red tape as big as a boulder.

Recuperating at home and letting his privates air out, Wan is willing to let the matter pass, but his wife Qiu Ju, Gong Li, argues her case to the Party official Officer Li and he orders Chief Wang to pay for Wan's medical bills and lost wages. Yet, this is not what Qiu Ju desires. She wants Chief Wang to explain why he kicked her husband in the family jewels and apologize for doing so, but being that he is a proud man and feels that he was wronged by Wan, the chief refuses to do so. He even goes as far as to toss the 200 Yuan he is supposed to give Wan in front of Qiu Ju and tells her to pick up each bill individually so that she bows to him twenty times.

Infuriated by Chief Wand, the very pregnant Qiu Ju, with her young sister-in-law Meizi in tow, heads for the village office. When the verdict is the same as the one handed down by Officer Li, Qiu Ju and Meizi head for the county seat. When Chief Wang is only ordered to pay 50 Yuan more, Qiu Ju and Meizi make their way to the big city.

While on its surface this film might at first seem as nothing more than one woman's search for justice, it is much more than that. This film is openly critical to those in power. When Qiu Ju demands Chief Wang to apologize not only does he refuse to do so he dares her to try to sue him. He believes that, and is probably right in most cases, that his membership and loyalty to the party will protect him from a commoner such as Qiu Ju. Qiu Ju doubts the system when she wonders if someone like her has a chance against someone in Chief Wang's position.

Outside of politics, the film also does a good contrasting the lives of those who live in the countryside with those who live in the city. Almost immediately after arriving in the city, Qiu Ju and Meizi are taken advantage of by a taxi-cyclist. However, their naivety moves a few people to aid them, such as the old man who owns the hotel in which they reside and Official Yan a Party official who Qiu Ju holds great respect for.

Displaying the beauty, and poverty, of China's frigid northern landscape, The Story of Qiu Ju, while not a polemic blast against the Chinese political system, displays the complex web of the Middle Kingdom's political system and the ways in which those in power, even if that person is just the chief of a small village, takes advantage of those in weaker positions. However, on another note, the film could also be viewed as a criticism against pigheadedness. At any rate, this is an enjoyable film that should be watched by those who enjoy Chinese films, especially the films made during the heyday of the Zhang Yimou/Gong Li collaboration.

Copyright 2006