Center Stage

Director Stanley Kwan / 1991 / Hong Kong

A unique melding of biopic and biographical documentary, this 90s classic – sumptuously restored in time for its 30th anniversary – pays tribute to a vanished era of cinema.

Ruan Lingyu was one of China’s first bona fide movie stars. Known as the ‘Chinese Greta Garbo’, she shone brightly in the silent pictures of the 1930s before taking her own life at the age of 24. Her tragic story is sketched by director Stanley Kwan (Everlasting Regret, MIFF 2006; Full Moon in New York, MIFF 1990) – a mainstay and icon in Hong Kong cinema – in this intricate opus that is part luxuriant melodrama, part investigative historical documentary, with legendary actor Maggie Cheung (Irma Vep, MIFF 1997; In the Mood for Love) alternating between embodying Ruan in re-enactment and wrestling with her own performance behind the scenes.

Screening in a striking 4K restoration three decades after its initial release in 1991, Center Stage is at once a celebration of the halcyon days of Chinese film, an indictment of the pitiless and prying gaze of the tabloid media, and a moving tribute to a performer whose brief but brilliant life was inextricably impacted by both.

“One of the finest films from Hong Kong’s 90s golden age of cinema.” – Slant

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