Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Magnificent Concubine (1962)

Chinese title: Yang Kwei Fei.

This is historical costune drama based on the life of Yang Kwei-Fei (Yang Guifei). She's 1 of 4 Chinese Beauty (Diau Charn is the other, which wa made by SB in 1958).

This is NOT a huangmeixi. I mention this because at this time, there were many Huangmei Operas made, especially in the historical drama genre, and were usually directed by Li Han-Hsian. This 1 is spot on both counts.
Magnificent Concubine (1962)There're some singing in this film, only 3 songs in fact, and they were done as Lady Yang to entertain the Emperor (you can't really completely escape singing in SB films before mid 1960s).

Just about every Chinese would have heard of Lady Yang. Any foreigner who had been to Xi'an would likely to have heard of her. And may even had watched the stage performance of the Song of Everlasting Sorrow (長恨歌) that depicted the Emperor's love and grief for Lady Yang. Song of Everlasting Sorrow is a long poem memorised by Chinese school children (my father-in-law is able to recite this very long poem that he learnt in his school days from some 60 odd years ago from start to finish. I manage to retain only 4 lines having learned it 30 years ago).

The other non-Chinese who are very familiar with her is Japanese. So much so that it was the Japanese who beat the Chinese to immortalise her on the silver screen in the production of Princess Yang Kwei-Fei, which was made in 1955. Japanese has long a love affair with Lady Yang, and many noh plays had been based on her story. It was actually a co-production between SB and Daiei.  But it was essentially a Japanese project.

As this film was made by Li Han-Hsian, audience can expect an impressive production. Li also directed Diau Charn 4 years earlier. I could see great improvements on the verisimilitude of the backdrop, and set design.

I'm guessing here, but judging from what I had seen, Shawscope had not been introduced in this film.

This is 1 of the few early SB films that won an award at the Cannes.

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