Classic Chinese Films on YT
April 22, 2020 5:13 AM   Subscribe

Thank you! my semester is almost over and I can almost taste the time in which I can watch these!

I'm not sure what I mean, except THANKS.
posted by allthinky at 5:26 AM on April 22, 2020

Is anyone familiar with these movies enough to give me a parental guidance advisory on them?
posted by Cozybee at 6:09 AM on April 22, 2020

Cozybee, I've seen two -

* The Goddess is the story of a prostitute who has a son. (No...."prostituting" is seen, it's more implied by her going to visit men alone after dark.) It starts when the son is a baby, and she gets sort of aggressively "taken in" by a john who insists that she and her son move in with him and he makes her turn over all her money. But she manages to skim enough off for herself and hide it away that in a few years, she has enough to afford tuition at a private school for her little boy.

It's more about the motherly-sacrifice angle, but others do discuss the woman being a prostitute (especially when the other mothers at the school find out what our main character does and make a stink with the principal - who is surprisingly sympathetic), and that may lead to kids asking questions that may be uncomfortable to answer.

* A Song At Midnight is a Chinese spin on The Phantom Of The Opera, only...a little more sympathetic. Instead of the Phantom being a creepy dude who hides out in an opera house and lures a pretty singer down to be his wife underground, this "Phantom" was a former famous opera star who was the boyfriend of a noblewoman, and a jealous rival threw acid on his face and so he faked his death, and lives in hiding - he comes out every night to serenade his old girlfriend under her window to comfort her. That might be okay for kids, although the movie also throws in some politicizing as a subplot that may bore or confuse them. (It honestly feels tacked-on, so you could also just all agree to ignore it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh wait, I've seen a third!

* Spring in a Small Town deals with a love triangle. But honestly, the pacing is so slow that I think the biggest problem as a parent is that kids would get bored pretty quickly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on April 22, 2020

If you liked Parasite, then you might want to check out Crows and Sparrows from the list. It was made on the eve of the Communist take over and has a somewhat similar "upstairs-downstairs" class conflict as its storyline. (It of course doesn't look like Parasite for being from the 40s, more just a similar theme from an earlier era.)

The other movies I've seen from the options also are proto-feminist/socialist made during a time when Chinese cinema was exploring avenues of political change prior to or just after Communist Party takeover.

On preview, The Goddess is the most famous film on the list, for being the role the actress Ruan Lingyu is most noted for. She was all too briefly an enormous star in Chinese cinema, who took her own life at the age of 24 for reasons that are said to be echoed in some of the films she made like The Goddess and even more so in New Women, both of which are tragedies dramatizing the sexist conditions of the time and through that making an appeal for women's rights. Silent movie

The Great Road, or The Big Road, or The Highway, as it is also known, is a silent movie with songs added by one of the major early directors from China, Sun Yu. It's enjoyable if you are into films of that era.

Spring in a Small Town is one of the most influential and popular movies from Chinese cinema history. It was even remade in 2002. It, along with The Goddess, is one of the early Chinese films which has been most viewed I think.

Daybreak is another major Sun Yu directed silent film that's well worth seeing and Street Angel is another leftist movie about class conflict and was one of China's first sound films with some popular music from the time.

And I agree with EmpressCallipygos as well.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:35 AM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Great timing, as I just introduced my spouse to Ruan Lingyu yesterday. Her story brings tears to my eyes every time I think about her. As Mark Cousins remarked about her: it was Ruan Lingyu, not Brando, who was the first realistic actor. But the racism of Western film history left her out of the historic narrative.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is so timely! I was just reading about Shangguan Yunzhu (上官云珠) and a movie she co-starred, "Long Live the Missus" is in the playlist.

I probably watched "Wanderings of Three Hairs the Orphan 三毛流浪記" when I was very young. The story of an orphan's survival in Shanghai (some of the plot has echoes of "Oliver Twist") was adapted from a popular comics series by Zhang Leping.
posted by of strange foe at 7:41 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Spring in a Small Town" is great.

On a side note, I've been trying to get a hold of Jia Zhangke's early movies ever since I saw tantalizing excerpts of them in the documentary "A guy from Fenyang" and am having no luck (neither through legit means, nor otherwise). If anybody has a clue, hit me up please!
posted by kolendra at 2:05 PM on April 22, 2020

On a side note, I've been trying to get a hold of Jia Zhangke's early movies ever since I saw tantalizing excerpts of them in the documentary "A guy from Fenyang" and am having no luck (neither through legit means, nor otherwise). If anybody has a clue, hit me up please!

Which films are you looking for? His first full feature film 小武 (Pickpocket) is on youtube with English subs as is the somewhat later Unknown Pleasures.

Platform is there as well with the better than nothing option of autotranslating for different languages or you might be able to do as some do and download the videos and separate subtitle files to play on the VLC media player or some such. His early 58 minute Xiao Shan Going Home could also be watched that way.

The World and Still Life probably could be too, but I didn't check. All but the two earliest had mainstream DVD releases in the US, so they should be available that way too if you have access to libraries or any remaining video stores, that's how I saw them and they definitely are worth seeking out if those are the ones you're talking about. His earlier short films I haven't looked for and don't know much about.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:06 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thanks gusottertrout!

I'm not in the US and where I am, there don't seem to be DVDs. I only came cross the 240p "Pickpocket" on youtube for some reason, but this link is good! For "Platform" I'm hoping to find better quality, will keep poking around...
posted by kolendra at 10:54 PM on April 22, 2020

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