The May Fourth Spirit was an important cultural and ethical guiding light of 1950s Hong Kong cinema, especially among progressive filmmakers. It's therefore no coincidence that two of the decade's best films are adapted from the work of a key May Fourth playwright—Sunrise, the middle piece of the cherished Cao Yu Trilogy that ushered in a new era of Chinese theatre. Cao, often regarded as China's Shakespeare, is renowned for his vivid portrayal of characters and evocative dialogues that capture at once psychological nuances and societal complexities.
While the 1953 Cantonese version was produced by the left-leaning company Xinglian, the 1956 Mandarin edition came from the leftwing studio Great Wall. Both echo the social criticism of Cao's 1935 play and anchor the story on a ‘social butterfly', euphemism for a woman who sells herself. Great Wall's rendition, however, focuses primarily on the worldly heroine (Hsia Moon) and incorporates flashbacks of her prelapsarian innocence, while Xinglian's adaptation, closer in spirit to the original, lets its ensemble cast, headlined by an infectiously poignant Mui Yee, share the spotlight more evenly and presents a multi-threaded narrative despite flatter characterisation.
|1/7/2018 (Sun)||5:00pm||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive|
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