Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nostalgic Chinese Cinema Review Series: 1930s 'Butterfly' and 'Golden Nightingale'...怀旧老电影:30年代的默片,蝴蝶和周旋

This year shall be the 'Year of China' for my blog. This is to coincide with the rapid ascension of China on the world economic and diplomatic stage as China's economy continues to rise on a bullet train speed whilst the West and Japan's economy continue to be mirred in recession and faltering from the effects of the Great Financial Crisis. It also coincides with the World Expo to be held in May in Shanghai, it's 'coming out' party so to speak, as the Olympics was to Beijing.

To start off my Year of China theme (one would realise i actually blog very little on China itself, the nation and especially on China post 1949 despite my blog name and strong Chinese interest in this blog!!), I shall do alittle review and introduction of Nostalgic Chinese film stars and movies starting from the silent film era of the early 1930s to HK, Taiwan, and China's filmstars/movies ending in the 1980s. Anything 90s I have already done a review of it (well just 1990s HK Cinema) over here:

This post shall be about the famous Stars of the 1930s and when Chinese cinema first boomed and blossomed. The early years saw Ruan Lingyu, a Canton girl who made it big in Shanghai, become the most famous star of Chinese silent film cinema. She was the divine 'Goddess of Shanghai' of the silent film era along with HuDie. She appeared in several films which were socialist and realistic for their portrayal of the time and how Chinese women had no power or say in their own lives. Her most famous work could arguably be 'The Goddess' where she depicted a prostitute who had to raise her child tirelessly and yet be the victim of societal prejudice and obstacles in 1934. Other notable works include 'New Women' and 'Three Modern Women'. She is often well known for her suicide more than just her movies. She committed suicide in 1935 at the age of 24 after rumors and unrelenting tabloid attacks on her moral character as she was in a lawsuit with her first husband and apparently in a relationship with a prominent married man. Apparently, in her suicide note left, there was the following passage which has been so famous that even now, ask any Chinese person, and they'll know this saying:人言可畏 'Rumours/Gossip can be Lethal'.
In 1992, Maggie Cheung won the Berlin Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Ruan's life in 'Centrestage'. This is also heralded as the turning point in Maggie's career and shot her to A-list status. Trailer here:

Hudie (Butterfly) was also one of the top silent film actresses of the1930s although her career spanned until the 1960s into the sound era. She was also apparently the 1st Chinese actress to have received an award overseas (in Europe) i think. She continued acting until the 1960s with her last film being in the early 60s as a mother role. She was so famous that when the Japanese invaded in 1937 she fled to Hong Kong. Later on, when the Japanese occupied Hong Kong as well in 1941, she went into hiding and with the help of Resistance forces, escaping into unoccupied China in Chungking (China's wartime capital) as the Japanese had a policy of forcing famous moviestars to collaborate with the Japanese military occupation in appearing in pro-Japanese propaganda films to brainwash the Chinese masses into accepting the Japanese occupation. Hudie, like most Chinese stars of the era, refused to colloborate and managed to escape to Chungking and the interior.

Another famous top star of the 30s/40s was Zhou Xuan, often hailed as having a 'Golden Voice' like the golden nightingale. She sang in many movies and most of her songs are very popular. She also killed herself (i think) in the 1950s after suffering from recurring bouts of depression.
Trailer of one of her most famous song in the Movie: Street Angel (1937):

Going on to the 1940s, in my next post, which shall continue the Nostalgic Chinese Cinema Review Series...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! One can never praise these great stars too much.

I must state that Centre Stage single-handedly spurred my interest in the rich history of Chinese cinema and also the classic Chinese pop music of yesteryear.

Looking forward to more! :D

hcpen said...

Duriandave: thanks!!:-)

Chris said...

wah... really old movie wo..

hcpen said...

Chris: Haha, yea yea:-)

fufu said...

wow... dont quite like such vintage movie ><

hcpen said...

fufu: Wah, you're missing out on the rich history of chinese cinema..very interesting to see the society back then!