Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The Kingdom and the Beauty (1959)

Kingdom and the BeautyAlthough Diau Charn (1958) is the 1st Huangmei Diao ever made, it was this 2nd Huangmei Opera feature that gave the genre a real boost, and gave this art form a good successful run for almost a decade.

When cars arrived on the streets, people called it a horseless carriage. People saw it as a technological version of the old horse and carriage. When SB introduced moving pictures early on to the HK audience, it wasn't surprising if HK audience viewed it as a technological version of the old theatres or opera stages. So it's natural that many of the movie genres were similar to those that the audience were once could be seen in theatres or opera stages - historical costume dramas, or dramas based on literary classics, or stories from folklore and legends. Indeed, SB made many of these in the 1950s - 60s. Indeed most of the artists were trained in Peking Opera. In fact, this wasn't just truth for movie performers acting in 1950s and 1960s, even later generation of internationally known actors like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, etc were trained in this background.

Cinema is superior to the opera stage in many ways: the cheap ticket prices meant that it reached a much wider audience, and the close-up shots meant that even audience in the back rows could see the expressions of the thespians clearly, etc.

For people who are concerning the image quality of the SB movies from 1950s onwards, this print should assure them. In fact, the picture quality of most of the digital remastered SB movies (by Celestial Picture) fair better than any movie produced in HK (other than SB) before 1990.

Kingdom and the BeautyI don't know what is it that make this Huangmei Opera so popular (at the very least when compares to its landmark 1st Huangmei Opera of Diau Charn). Could it because it's a romance with tragic ending (Chinese love tragic love story)? Or the fact that it won Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

The Imperial Guard left the Ming Emperor unaccompanied most of the time in Kiang Nan, he must think that his neck is tougher than an executioner's cold steel blade (the best executioner would give you minimum pain in the neck). Never mind the safety of an unattended emperor from would-be assassins, it also leads to unintended tragedy that's the story of this Huangmei Diao.

As Huangmei Opera is sung in a more 'natural voice', I encourage you to sing along, especially in the 2nd viewing, provided that you know Mandarin. This is a totally acceptable practise. This is karaoke in Huangmei Opera style. In fact, this actually occurred for The Love Eterne (1963). This was not an unique cinema phenomenon (maybe 1 of the earliest, if not THE earliest). The Rocky Horror Picture had been showing in a cinema in Sydney Australia for a period of many years on every Saturday (or is it Friday?), where audience all dressed up like Halloween party attendees and sung alone during the screening.

Health Warning: Once a Huangmei tune is buried deep into your brain, the tune may play in your head over and over again like a broken record, interfering with your love life. It may even drive you insane. You may require lobotomy to alleviate this insidious headache

Fun Facts:
Linda Lin Dai was called the Asian Marilyn Monroe as they were contemporary with on another. Lin Dai dided in 1964 while Monro at 1962.

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