Hong Kong, Shanghai: Cinema Cities is an extraordinary opportunity to embark on a thematic and chronological journey through the interconnected film histories of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Screening more than 60 films, presented midway between the centenaries of mainland Chinese cinema in 2005 and Hong Kong cinema in 2009. Important centres of film production, Hong Kong and Shanghai have generated strong cinematic responses to their particular urban character, and film directors, actors and producers have moved between the two cities, often in response to political and social upheavals. Hong Kong, Shanghai: Cinema Cities traces the enduring appeal of genres, stars and styles established in the golden age of Chinese cinema in 1930s Shanghai and embraced by Hong Kong cinema over the following decades.
The program features the earliest still existing film from silent-era Shanghai, Romance of a Fruit Peddler 1922 (dir: Zhang Shichuan); a retrospective of actress Ruan Lingyu (known as the 'Shanghai Garbo'), including her best known film, Goddess 1934 (dir: Wu Yonggang); as well as Chinese cinema classics set in city streets and against a backdrop of political turmoil. Other highlights include the cinema stories of celebrated writer Eileen Chang; the genre of tenement films, which respond to crowded city tenement living; and the songstress films of perennial stars Zhou Xuan, Li Lihua and Grace Chang (Ge Lan). Pre-revolutionary Shanghai continues to hold a fascination for Hong Kong and mainland filmmakers who recreate its allure and historical trauma. Hong Kong cinema strongly celebrates the city's urban identity while also mediating its relationship with mainland China, particularly through its historical links with Shanghai.
The Australian Cinémathèque acknowledges the generous assistance of the China Film Archive, Beijing, the Hong Kong Film Archive, Hong Kong, the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, Taipei, and the Centre de Documentation du Cinéma Chinois, Paris, in the preparation and presentation of the Hong Kong, Shanghai: Cinema Cities program.
List of Works
AN AMOROUS HISTORY OF SHANGHAI AND HONG KONG CINEMA
Early twentieth-century Chinese cinema frequently took as its subject the perils and pleasures of modern urban life. On cinema screens, literary adaptations, both popular and progressive, joined realist dramas showing women's struggles to work and keep their families together in the face of men's moral foibles.
Romance of a Fruit Peddler aka Labourer's Love (Laogong Zhi Aiqing aka Zhi Guo Yuan) 1922 | Director: Zhang Shichuan
A String of Pearls (Yichuan Zhenzhu) 1926 | Director: Li Zeyuan
Amorous History of the Silver Screen (Yinmu Yanshi) 1931 | Director: Cheng Bugao
Pink Dream (Fenhongse de Meng) 1932 | Director: Cai Chusheng
Symphony of Lianhua (Lianhua Jiaoxiangqu) 1937 | Director: Situ Huimin, Fei Mu, Tan Youliu, He Mengfu, Zhu Shilin, Shen Fu, Sun Yu, Cai Chusheng
SHANGHAI GODDESS: RUAN LINGYU
Ruan Lingyu is the most celebrated actress of the golden age of Chinese cinema. Starring in 29 films before her tragic suicide at 24, she often portrayed women struggling to come to terms with love, work and survival in the modern city.
Love and Duty 1931 | Director: Bu Wancang
The Peach Girl 1931 | Director: Bu Wancang
Little Toys 1933 | Director: Sun Yu
Coming Home 1934 | Director: Zhu Shilin
Goddess 1934 | Director: Wu Yonggang
New Women 1935| Director: Cai Chusheng
SUN YU AND NATIONAL CINEMA
Sun Yu began making films after his return to Shanghai in 1926 from studies in the United States. A socially conscious filmmaker, he was also technically innovative.
Wild Rose 1932
Little Toys 1933
Queen of Sports 1934
Big Road 1935
Throughout the early twentieth century, filmmakers and actors moved between Shanghai and Hong Kong in response to ongoing political and social upheavals. They took their projects and preoccupations with them, and the relationship between the cities was captured by the cinema lens.
The Battle of Shanghai 1937 | Director: Lai Man-Wai
Twin Sisters of the South 1939 | Directors: Lai Bun, Leung Sum
Crossroads 1937 | Director: Shen Xiling
Street Angel 1937 | Director: Yuan Muzhi
The Spring River Flows East 1947 | Directors: Cai Chusheng, Zheng Junli
Myriad of Lights 1948 | Director: Shen Fu
Orphan on the Streets 1949 | Directors: Zhao Ming, Yan Gong
Little Cheung 1950 | Director: Fung Fung
The Orphan 1960| Director: Li Chenfeng
The experience of living in city tenement blocks gave rise to tenement films, a popular genre highlighting the stories and intersections of lives played out in crowded city boarding conditions. Close-knit, though sometimes divided, the tenement community on screen quickly becomes an allegory for the city or nation.
New and Old Shanghai 1936 | Director: Cheng Bugao
Night Inn 1947 | Director: Huang Zuolin
Crows and Sparrows 1949 | Director: Zheng Junli
In the Face of Demolition 1953 | Director: Li Tit
SONGSTRESS TO MAMBO GIRL
Popular songs have been part of the Mandarin cinema since the introduction of sound in the 1930s. Gewu pian (dancing and singing films) synthesised popular musical entertainment and cinema. Songstress films were quickly established as a genre in Shanghai in the 1930s and later in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. This section showcases the genres most alluring stars and titles.
ZHOU XUAN AND BAI GUANG
Archetypal songstress of Mandarin cinema Zhou Xuan (1920–1957) is best remembered for her performance in the classic Street Angel1937. In her popular Hong Kong production Song of a Songstress1948 (dir: Fang Peilin), she performs 'Songstress of the world' ('Tianya genü'), which became her signature song. Tragically, her final years were spent in a Mainland mental hospital, where her death was possibly suicide. Many of her songs are still popular today; one features in the soundtrack of Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love 2000 (see Mirror Cities: Fascination and Nostalgia). Launching her singing career at 22, Bai Guang (1920–1999) quickly became a successful singer–actress in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, and then, like Zhou Xuan, her star continued to rise in Hong Kong after the war. Bai was known as the most sultry and sensuous of the songstress stars, nicknamed both 'Standard Alto' for her low voice and 'Bewitching Beauty of all Ages' for her enduring stage appeal. In Songs in the Rainy Nights 1950 (dir: Li Ying), she plays a country girl who moves to Hong Kong and achieves success as a nightclub singer, while her cousin works more respectably in a factory.
Street Angel (Malu Tianshi) 1937 | Director: Yuan Muzhi
Night Inn (Ye Dian) 1947 | Director: Huang Zuolin
Orioles Banished from the Flowers (Huawai Liuying) 1948 | Director: Fang Peilin
Song of a Songstress (Genü zhi Ge) 1948 | Director: Fang Peilin
Flower Street (Hua Jie) 1950 | Director: Yue Feng
Songs in the Rainy Nights (Yuye Gesheng) 1950 | Director: Li Ying
The child of Peking opera performers, Li Lihua (b. 1924) began her film career in 1940, after being discovered by the head of Yihua Film Company at the age of fifteen. She made more than 20 films by the time the war ended in 1945. In 1949, she went to Hong Kong and worked for new production companies, including Yung Hwa, Great Wall and Longma (Dragon-Horse) Films, before establishing her own company, Lihua. The films she made in this period are some of her best and include important milestones in Mandarin cinema. Li was one of the first stars from Hong Kong to go to Hollywood, appearing alongside Victor Mature in China Doll 1958, but worked mainly in Hong Kong in Shaw Brothers productions in the 1960s before emigrating to the United States in