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China (MIFF 2006, Transience: The Asian Metropolis)


Often hailed as the pinnacle of Chinese silent cinema, The Goddess (1934) was the penultimate film of silent film superstar Ruan Lingyu.

It is the story of a single mother (Ruan Lingyu) who must care for her young son in an environment of hostile intolerance. As her options dwindle, she turns to prostitution to support herself and her son. When running from the police, she becomes involved with a gangster who exploits her by threatening the child. The boy begins attending a school but the school is forced into an investigation of the mother's affairs. She resolves to leave the city, however, fate intervenes.

Bravely avoiding the clichéd ‘prostitute with a heart of gold' portrayal, The Goddess was rather a social critique of contemporary China; an environment which could force a woman to such extreme actions in order to survive, requiring her to sacrifice herself to give her child a future. Ruan Lingyu's central performance, in both its delicacy and its emotional power, makes for a truly remarkable film.

D/S Yonggang Wu P Luo Mingyou WS China Film Archive L no dialogue TD 35mm/BW/1934/85mins

Yonggang Wu was born in China in 1907 and died in 1982. His films include Invincible Martial Arts (1938).

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