Centre Stage, also known as Actress and Yuen Ling-yuk, is a 1992 Hong Kong film, directed by Stanley Kwan.
The film is based on a true story: the tragic life of China’s first prima donna of the silver screen, Ruan Lingyu. This movie chronicles her rise to fame as a movie actress in Shanghai during the 1930s. Actress Maggie Cheung portrayed Ruan in this movie.
Nicknamed the “Chinese Garbo,” Ruan Lingyu began her acting career when she was 16 years old and committed suicide at age 24.
The film alternates between present scenes (production talks between director Kwan, Cheung, and co-star Carina Lau, interviews of witnesses who knew Ruan), re-creation scenes with Cheung (as Ruan, acting inside this movie), and extracts from Ruan’s original films including her final two films The Goddess and New Women.
《The Tragedy of Liang and Zhu 》(1926)
In an earlier post, we discussed the literary genre known as “Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies,” classical-style stories of romance between a poor scholar and a beauty, often a tale ending tragically. One of the most beloved stories in this genre has been that of a scholar named Liang Shanbo and his love, Zhu Yingtai, sometimes titled “The Butterfly Lovers.” This story has been filmed repeatedly, at least 17 times, including theatrical releases, TV movies and miniseries, and there have probably been countless dramatic and operatic stage versions. The first motion picture version was in 1926, and it was notable in Chinese film history: in addition to being the first motion picture version of the classic, it was one of the earliest successes for the fledgling Tianyi film studio, the Shanghai forerunner of the legendary Shaw Brothers Hong Kong empire; also, it was one of the first lead roles for 18-year-old Hu Die, who in a few years would be number one at the box office for the Mingxing (Star) company, China’s dominant film studio.
Also noteworthy is the fact that while this classic Chinese tale was set during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.), the actors were dressed in the styles of the mid-1920s, a common practice until the following year. In addition, filming was largely done on location, in a scenic area of rivers and lakes between the cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou, and used special effects, most notably the incarnation of the lovers as butterflies in the final scene. Tianyi was one of the first Shanghai studios to exploit the southeast Asian market, and it created a sensation when it played there, as well as in China, setting a box office record for any Chinese movie up to that time.