Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Diau Charn (1958)

Many of the early SB's historical costume dramas are done in Huangmei Opera format (also called Huangmeixi) from a period of 1950s up until the mid 1960s. Huangmei Diao (黄梅调), sometimes called "Plum Opera" in the West, should be called the "Yellow Plum Opera" to be exact to the literal translation.

Diau Charn (1958)Huangmei Opera isn't hard to appreciate by newbies who want to get into this art form. Unlike the Peking Opera where the falsetto singing sounds to the unaccustomed foreign ears like a cat being strangled. And the soprano singing in Italian Opera drove my mum up the wall (well, she doesn't enjoy Peking Opera either. She's into Huangmei and Chaozhou Opera, which is older than Peking Opera). To the Hong Kong people durian smell like cat droppings (ok, I'll lay off the poor cats). Here's good news, Huangmei tune as it's sometimes called, is quite easy to listen to. It sounds closer to singing in My Fair Lady than either Italian or Peking opera. I said closer. I never said the same.

The opera is said to have came from the Chinese Anhui province that had been modified for cinema production.

Of course, I was too young to understand the lyrics, but still enjoyed the costumes, singing, and those sumptuous SB stage sets, and the story. Today, I can understand lyrics completely. Not that my mandarin have improved - indeed by a lot - but still far short of understanding the singing. It's because those SB Huangmeixi now come with English subtitles!!! It comes with Chinese subs too, but I still prefer English ones. Isn't globalisation great? It's like eating Chinese food with spoon and fork, it won't alter the taste of food. It makes it easier because I haven't completely mastered the chopsticks (shame on me, I know).

It's interesting to note that the backdrop at this time could be easily discerned as oil painting. The situation was greatly improved by as early as the mid 1960s where the backdrop looked much more realistic, and could only be detected with the severest of scrutiny. This could be achieved either with better painting or simply moved the backdrop further away from the act(ors/ress).

Having said that, the backdrop is a minor complaint. Overall, the production was impressive - the costume was fab, the colour glorious, and the stage set handsome.

Watching the digital remastered version of Diau Charn, I'm quite impressed with its quality, considering that the print had been severely damaged with age. The restoration is top notched. Judge it for yourself.

This is also the 1st colour film ever made in SB, thus explains why Celestial Picture put in such effort to restore a this very degraded piece of celluloid out of a library of thousand.

That make this the 1st Huangmei Opera made in HK film industry.

This film is included in my IMDB movie list.

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