Sunday, 3 June 2007

Empress Wu (1963)

Empress Wu (1963)There's absolutely no doubt that this film rode on the success of The Magnificent Concubine (1962) . Same 2 main leads(Li Li-Hua, Zhao Lei), same director (Li Han-Hsiang), same genre (historical epic costume drama with female lead) nad same cinematographer (Tadashi Nishimoto). Not to mention Li lihua's husband in real life, Yen Chun, an actor-director, also appeared in both films. And like its predecessor, it should be point out that this film isn't a Huangmeixi as this genre would typically be during this period.

Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty was the ONLY Empress regnant in Chinese history while Cixi of the Qing Dynasty was only an Empress Dowager. In other words, Empress Wu ruled under her own Zhou Dynasty. In that time when only men could rule, you could imagine the number of powerful officials and aristocrats who proclaimed her illegitimacy because she was a woman or at least used it as a (t)reason to overthrow her. She was pretty busy fending off one usurper after another. And this movie shows those attempts, and they toppled like dominos. Both well known actor-directors Lo Wei and King Hu played the usurpers.

Li Li-Hua was also unique as the only actress went to Hollywood to make The China Doll (1958) in that period.

A woman with such power and status was unquestionably unheard of during the Tang Dynasty in China, or indeed the world. But women with high authority making movies about women of high status in the SB Empire was quite common . During the 1950s and 1960s, it was actresses, not actors, who ruled SB. Mona Fong or Lady Shaw is a 2nd wife of Run Run Shaw, and considered his right hand woman. She produced hundred of movies in SB, and  is currently the Deputy Chairman and General Manager of SB and TVB.

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