Lao She's Rickshaw Boy is a masterpiece of 1930s Chinese literature, lauded for its unsettling depiction of the human condition through cultural practices and social inequalities. Informed by the urgency of the May Fourth Spirit to seek national renewal and the humanism of Western literature, the novel chronicles the struggles of a common man to realise himself against highly unfavourable odds. Its dramatic treatment of everyday details, vivid characterisations and vibrant capturing of Beijing lifestyle lend itself to adaptations in different media, from film to stage to opera to television to musical theatre.
What Price Love moves the story from 1920s Beijing to 1960s Hong Kong, and, in keeping with our city's modern economy, changes the Boy's occupation from rickshaw pulling to truck driving. The Chinese production Rickshaw Boy, on the other hand, keeps its original setting, shooting scenes on location to rekindle the colours and rhythms of the capital city.
While both versions are devoid of the original's devastating ending, the Hong Kong one ends with an outlook even more positive than the Chinese take. And while the former includes more entertainment-oriented moments like heroic action, the latter is marked by superb performances by its leading actors, especially Siqin Gaowa, whose nuanced portrayal of the determined boss's daughter who seduces the titled character gives not only the character but the story an extra dimension.
Courtesy of China Film Archive
|3/6/2018 (Sun)||5:00pm||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive|
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