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Recap: Seeing China Through Film: Street Angels, 7.28.21

Recap: Seeing China Through Film: Street Angels, 7.28.21

On July 28, we hosted our third installment of our Summer series Seeing China Through Film,with a screening and discussion of Street Angels, the most celebrated Chinese musical of the 1930s, released in Shanghai in July 1937 just as full-scale war broke out with Japan in northern China. The film showcases the popularity of film musicals, the charm and charisma of its “golden voice” star, the multiple influences of Hollywood on the Chinese talkies, and the violent realities of 1930s China.

The program brought back Christopher Rea, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia and prolific author of works on Chinese film, for the conversation.

Movie Synopsis:

Teenaged songstress Zhou Xuan sings two hit songs in director Yuan Muzhi’s masterpiece. At the center of these “street angels” is a young woman who has fled fighting in the Northeast only to find herself threatened again in Shanghai. She seeks refuge from her abusers with her lover across the alley, played by heartthrob Zhao Dan, and other downtrodden friends. But will Xiao Hong and her sister, who has been forced into prostitution, be able to escape?

Speaker Bio:

Christopher Rea is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. His latest book, Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949, was published on June 1, 2021. In addition to the book, Rea created a series of online film resources, including chinesefilmclassics.org and a YouTube playlist of 20+ subtitled films and 22 video lectures. Rea is also the author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (2015) and co-translator of The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (Columbia, 2017). At UBC, Rea previously served as Associate Head of the Department of Asian Studies and Director of the Centre for Chinese Research.

Full Video of the Panel Talk:

Movie Discussed and Viewing Links:

Street Angels, 馬路天使, 1937
Director: Yuan Muzhi. 91 minutes.
Mandarin, with English subtitles.


Next in the Seeing China Through Film Series:


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