Full River Red


Full River Red

满江红 (Man Jiang Hong)

China, 2023, 157’, Mandarin 
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Screenplay: Chen Yu, Zhang Yimou
Photography (color): Zhao Xiaoding (CMSC, ASC)
Editing Supervisor: Li Yongyi (CCEA)
Production Design: Lu Wei
Styling: Chen Minzheng, Qin Xilin
Music: Han Hong
Sound: Yang Jiang, Zhao Nan
Action Choreographer: San Ling 
Visual Effects Supervisor: Samson Wong
Executive Direction: Ma Ming
Producer: Pang Liwei
Executive Producers: Liang Yu, Li Lin
Production Companies: Huanxi Media Group Ltd. (BJ), Yixie (Qingdao) Pictures Co., Ltd.
Cast: Shen Teng (Zhang Da); Jackson Yee (Sun Jun); Zhang Yi (He Li); Lei Jiayin (Qin Hui), Yue Yunpeng (Wu Yichun), Wang Jiayi (Zither), Pan Binlong (Ding Sanwang), Yu Ailei (Liu Xi), Guo Jingfei (Wang Biao), Ou Hao (Zheng Wan), Wei Xiang (Ha Deng), Zhang Chi (Chen Liang), Huang Yan (Hu Yong), Xu Jingya (Lan Yu), Jiang Pengyu (Lv Zhu), Lin Boyang (Liu Yan), Fei Fan (Qingmei), Ren Sinuo (Yao Yatou), Chen Yongsheng (Song soldier), Zhang Yinan (Chen Xi)

Date of First Release in Territory: January 22nd, 2023


Since the films he directed in the 1980s which revolutionized the cinematic aesthetics of the time, Zhang Yimou has made a profound impression on the history of contemporary Chinese cinema. Over the course of his career, this eclectic screenwriter and director has ventured into an incredible range of genres, from art-house, martial arts, historical blockbusters and protest movies to intimate low-budget films, drama, black comedy and propaganda cinema. His most recent film, Full River Red, is difficult to classify in terms of genre as it seems to combine elements of all the films Zhang Yimou has previously directed into a successful pastiche. 
The story is set in Song Dynasty China and revolves around the search for a missing letter. It is the year 1146 and a rebellion is brewing among the Jin people against the Emperor, who summons a rebel delegation to a meeting with Prime Minister Qin Hui at a remote outpost of the empire. But two hours before the crucial meeting, the Jin representative is assassinated and the letter he carried for the Emperor is stolen. The opening sequence of the film, with its perfectly choreographed squads of soldiers running through the silent nocturnal courtyards of a building, feels like the beginning of an action film of monumental scale, but the story rapidly changes tone as soon as the two leads make their appearance – two soldiers of the imperial guard who have gotten into trouble with their superiors and who are entrusted with the mission of finding the letter within two hours, on pain of death. The two are related, but have very different personalities: the younger, Sun Jun, is a low-ranking but ambitious and disciplined captain, while the other, Zhang Da, is a simple, undisciplined soldier who nevertheless possesses the kind of intelligence born out of an instinct for survival. Played respectively by Jackson Yee and Shen Teng – one of the most popular comic actors of the moment, who brings a touch of light-heartedness to the film from the moment he appears on screen – the two busily set to work not so much to save the empire as to save their own skins. The investigations immediately put them on the trail of Zither, the beautiful courtesan whom Ambassador Jin had been with before he was assassinated, and who, as the minutes go by, will prove to be a much more complex character than at first she seemed. The earthy humanity of the protagonists is contrasted in the film with the cynicism and ruthlessness of characters like the prime minister and the other imperial officials who, while hiding unspeakable secrets, do not hesitate to resort to torture to extract forced confessions. 
The film moves from black comedy to thriller and then to drama, and from the personal story of individuals struggling for survival to the history of the Empire itself – the development of the narrative is entrusted to psychological warfare rather than action scenes. The film's main theme is loyalty, exemplified by Full River Red – a famous patriotic poem attributed to General Yue Fei of the Song dynasty – which is declaimed in one of the final scenes, but the themes of corruption and injustice are also ever present. The soundtrack is particularly interesting, featuring music that combines rock with folk and creating a dynamic, contemporary mood for this story set in the China of the past. The impeccable photography is by Zhang Xiaoding, the DP with whom Zhang Yimou has always worked. The film was released in theatres during the Chinese New Year and, cleverly promoted as a black comedy in order to take advantage of the festive atmosphere, eclipsed the season’s other films at the box office. To date the film has already taken in US$664 million at the box office and is the biggest commercial success of Zhang Yimou’s career.


Zhang Yimou


The best-known PRC filmmaker in the West, Zhang Yimou (Shaanxi, 1951) began his career as a cinematographer. He was one of the first group of students to enter the Beijing Film Academy following the reopening of the Institute in 1978, graduating in cinematography in 1982 and making his directorial debut with the film Red Sorghum in 1987. The best-known exponent of the filmmakers of the so-called “fifth generation” he is a director, producer, writer and actor. A prolific and eclectic screenwriter, he has tackled a wide range of film genres and his films have won countless awards at the most prestigious international film festivals.


1987 – Red Sorghum 
1990 – Judou 
1991 – Raise the Red Lantern
1992 – The Story of Qiu Ju 
1994 – To Live 
1995 – Shanghai Triad 
1999 – Not One Less 
2002 – Hero 
2004 – House of Flying Daggers
2009 – A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop 
2016 – The Great Wall 
2020 – One Second 
2021 – Cliff Walkers 
2022 – Snipers 
2023 – Full River Red 

Maria Barbieri
Film director: ZHANG Yimou
Year: 2023
Running time: 157'
Country: China
29/04 - 7:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
29-04-2023 19:30 29-04-2023 22:07Europe/Rome Full River Red Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org