Restored classics from the cradle of Chinese cinema to be screened
By Xu Wei
Five classic sound films from the Shanghai cradle of Chinese cinema will be screened for the first time in their restored version on the mainland.
The films from the late 1930s and 40s will be screened for a week starting next Friday at the recently opened Shanghai Film Museum.
All of the films, black and white productions, were made by celebrated directors.
The films are Fei Mu’s acclaimed “Confucius” (1940) — some say it’s better and bolder than the 2010 rendition — Bu Wancang’s “Diao Chan” (1938) and “The Soul of China” (1948), Fang Peilin’s “Orioles Banished from the Flowers” (1947) and “Song of a Songstress” (1948). Both “Orioles” and “Songstress” star famous actress and singer Zhou Xuan (1920-1957), known for her “golden voice” and tragic life.
The screening exhibition is titled “Confucius Returns to Shanghai.”
The film museum will extend its hours to 9pm on August 2, 3 and 9.
Classic animated films will also be screened.
Other classic films to be screened at the Shanghai Film Museum
'Diao Chan' (1938)
The lavish costume drama tells the story of patriotic concubine Diao Chan, one of China’s Four Beauties, who used her beauty and wiles to pit jealous rivals against each other in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD). The story comes from a tale in the classic novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” In the film Diao’s manipulations lead to the murder of a rebellious minister. Shooting began in Shanghai in 1937 but was suspended after many actors were forced to flee during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. Shooting was resumed in 1938 in Hong Kong when director Bu Wancang reconvened the original cast.
'The Soul of China' (1948)
The historic war drama tells the story of Wen Tianxing (1236-1283), a scholar general of the late Song Dynasty (960-1279) who battled the invading forces of Kublai Khan and refused to yield. He was framed by his political rivals and imprisoned, writing “Songs of Righteousness” in prison. The emperor ordered his execution. Most of the renowned actors of the time took part.
'Song of a Songstress' (1948)
Fang Peilin’s last film, and also his best known, is about a cabaret singer Zhu Lan (Zhou Xuan) who resists the advances of an arrogant playboy because she is in love with an impoverished painter. She has a tragic past, however, and is drawn into the playboy’s debt when she asks him to help the painter. In the film’s climax, she sings “Songstress of the World,” which became Zhou’s signature song.
'Orioles Banished from the Flowers' (1948)
A situation comedy involving an accidental trip to Shanghai, the film is filled with songs from Zhou Xuan who plays a young girl with a beautiful voice. Her singing disturbs the tutoring sessions given by a poor university student. But they finally meet and fall in love.