With The Story of Qiu Ju, internationally acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou shifts his attention from powerful historical dramas (Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou) to contemporary life. Gong Li plays the titular heroine, an average woman in a rural village whose life is unexceptional until her husband is physically attacked by the village elder. When the elder refuses to apologize, Qiu Ju decides to seek legal action with the help of a local magistrate. Soon, her quest for simple justice balloons into a series of frustrating battles with a complicated and unproductive bureaucracy. In contrast to the rich, painterly look of his previous films, Zhang adopts an unadorned, realistic style that allows the film's increasingly absurd situations to speak for themselves. Indeed, while the look at government gone wrong has serious underpinnings, the overall tone remains one of understated satire. As might be expected, The Story of Qiu Ju was received with greater appreciation by international critics than in its home country.
by Judd Blaise synopsis