Friday, August 13, 2010

A Spray of Plum Blossoms: Early, Silent, Chinese Shakespeare

A Spray of Plum Blossoms. Dir. Wangcang Bu. Perf. Ruan Lingyu, Jin Yan, Gao Zhanfei, Lin Chuchu, and Wang Cilong. 1931. DVD. Epoch Entertainment, 2007.

Alexander C. Y. Huang's Chinese Shakespeares (for which, q.v.) provides a substantial and complex vocabulary for talking about global Shakespeares. But it also provides a wealth of interesting examples.

One of the Chinese Shakespeares Huang addresses at length is a 1931 silent film derivative of Two Gentlemen of Verona entitled A Spray of Plum Blossoms. The film is quite interesting. Its title cards appear in Chinese and English (see above), which may indicate something of the audience toward which it was directed.

The scene below is analogous to Act I, scene ii of Two Gentlmen. Julia receives a love letter from Proteus, tears it up out of pride (she doesn't want to be seen as in love before her maid), and immediately regrets it:

I'm particularly fond of the way the vertical Chinese title card fades into the horizontal English title card. The maid, too, plays her part to perfection. The rhythm of her entrance and exit with a dustpan toward the end is admirable.

I'll leave the deep analysis of the film to Huang—you'll find it in his book—but I hope this brief clip (the film itself runs well over an hour and a half!) interests you enough to try either the film or the book.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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