Red Sorghum (1987)
Gong Li is a peasant girl who's married off to a leper and inherits his winery after he dies, striking up a romance with brutish worker Jiang Wen before even this. It's told from the perspective of the narrator, their grandson. The film undergoes a fairly radical shift of direction in the last act, when the film skips forward to the Japanese invasion. The ending is rather enigmatic.
After looking forward for so many years to see Zhang Yimou's directorial debut, it's quite difficult to admit that it's... kind of boring! The narrative is intriguingly fractured, but I didn't feel any great interest in the characters or their tale.
The cinematography is quite luscious of course, though not as outrageously beautiful as some of Yimou's other work. Gong Li doesn't reveal the full depths of her talent as an actress here, but Jiang Wen makes a strong impression.
The film is worth a watch, but not one of the better results of the Zhang Yimou/Gong Li pairing.