TWO ACTRESSES [Feature]

People's Republic of China (MIFF 1981 )
Director: Xie Jin

The cinema of the People's Republic of China remains almost unknown in the west and it is only in the last year or two that efforts have begun to explore what may turn out to be the last great treasure trove of unknown cinema The recent season of Chinese films at the National Film Theatre in London and the appearance of a number of the films on the BBC have at least meant that there is a start being made to bring us up to date.

The film which the Festival has chosen was specifically recommended to us by Tony Rayns, the co-organiser of the NFT season. It was made in 1964, but has been little seen because the intervening Cultural Revolution period led to other works of art being preferred Sixteen years later it has emerged to now receive the acclaim it richly deserves.

Set in 1 935, it concerns Zhu Chunhua, a child-bride who runs away from home. She is taken in by a small opera troupe, a troupe in which all roles, male and female, are played by women. She becomes a close friend of Yuehong. The two women endure hardships from local despots, thugs and an evil theatre manager in the debauched city of Shanghai. However, Chunhua joins the revolutionary forces and ultimately the two are re-united in a performance for the people.

Expertly played and directed with considerable subtlety and sophistication, this is a compelling melodrama of ambition, betrayal. struggle and ultimate triumph over evil social forces.

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