A Celebration of Xiqu: March Film Screenings
Why We Recommend it
Eight films produced between 1957 and 2016, highlighting different regional xiqu varieties, will be screened for the first time in Hong Kong.
The Jade Hairpin (1967), a Huangmei opera film, is an archetype of the many Hong Kong-inspired Taiwanese opera films produced in the mid-1960s. It follows the tale of Xiu, the daughter of high-ranking Chinese government official who is betrothed to young scholar Wang, having her jade hairpin stolen by her jealous cousin Gu in an attempt to drive the couple apart.
The Pearl Pagoda (2016) features a cast led by Plum Blossom Award winners Ni Tongfang and Zhou Dongliang. It tells of how Fang Qing, the heir of a once-affluent family, is sent by his mother to borrow money from a rich aunt. Seeing the scornful woman reject his request, Fang’s kind-hearted cousin Cui-e secretly passes Fang a precious pearl pagoda hidden in a box of sweets, only to be stolen by bandits. Will the wheel of fortune ever turn for Fang?
Tenth Madam (1957) is deemed a masterpiece starring legendary Chuanju performer Liao Jingqiu. It is also the first-ever colour Sichuan opera film. Set in Beijing during the Ming dynasty, it portrays the story of Du Shi Niang, a prostitute who falls in love with spendthrift playboy Li Jia. When Li sells her away for a higher price, Du reveals that she is actually in possession of tremendous wealth, before jumping into the Yangtze River with her treasures and integrity.
The Story of Sixth Madam Su (1960) was the first collaboration between Teochew opera companies from Hong Kong and Guangdong. It tells of how Su Liuniang (the Sixth Madam), who falls in love with her older cousin, is promised to another man by her father. The tragedy is credited with rekindling the popularity of Teochew opera in Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia, and launching lead actress Yao Xuanqiu to stardom.
Driven to Join the Liangshan Rebels (2013) features two-time Plum Blossom Award winners Wang Ping and Wang Yan. This Peking opera classic is based on chapters from Water Margin, one of the “Four Great Classical Novels” of Chinese literature. Set in the Song dynasty, the story follows the misfortunes of the honourable martial artist Lin Zhong, who is falsely accused of attempting to assassinate Grand Commandant Gao Qiu and sent into exile to the remote town of Cangzhou. During Lin’s journey into exile, two murder attempts are made against him on Gao’s instruction. Filled with rage, Lin kills Gao’s henchmen, leaving him no choice but to join the Liangshan Rebels and become an outlaw…
The Scholar and the Widow (2013) features Plum Blossom Award winners Zeng Jingping and Gong Wanli. It is an ironic tale of wealthy official Peng, who, on his deathbed, fears that his wife Li will move on and remarry. He asks his neighbour, the scholar Dong, to “keep an eye” on Li. Little does he expect that his request will lead to a love affair between Dong and his wife after his death.
Produced by China Theatre Association, The Legend of Hua Mulan (2010) is a legendary tale about a once ordinary woman who takes her father’s place in the army and becomes close friends with Captain Jin Yong during their service together. When Jin discovers that Mulan is a woman, the two make a vow to marry. Having ascended the ranks, Mulan is soon called to lead her army into war. Returning in triumph after a great victory, she learns that Jin Yong has been killed in battle. Heart-broken, the war heroine turns down titles and acclaim from the Emperor, and heads home to be with her loved ones.
Executing Chen Shimei (2011) is inspired by one of the most well-known trials in Chinese history. The film stars two legendary performers of the Shaanxi xiqu genre Qinqiang: Plum Blossom Award winner Qi Aiyun, and “King of Painted Faces” Zhang Lanqin. Abandoning his first wife in the provinces, the ambitious Chen Shimei weds the royal princess and sets up a new home with her secretly in Beijing. When his first wife Qin Xianglian finds him in the capital and confronts him about his betrayal, Chen publicly shames her and attempts to have her and her children murdered. Devastated and furious, but managing to escape the man sent to kill her, Qin turns for help to the astute judge Bao Zheng. Will Qin succeed in exposing her husband’s deeds?
Please note that The Jade Hairpin and The Tenth Madam do not have subtitles; The Pearl Pagoda and The Scholar and the Widow will be supplemented by both Chinese and English subtitles; and the rest will be supplemented by Chinese subtitles.