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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

The Golden Age of Shanghai Filmmaking
Selected by Professor Paul G. Pickowicz.


In an era in which martial arts-inspired movies seem to dominate Chinese imports, we asked Professor Paul G. Pickowicz, Department of History, to give us his own top-ten list of early Chinese classic movies. His popular undergraduate course on the Cultural History of Twentieth Century China examines the colorful and troubled history of Shanghai from 1920 to 1935 by viewing silent-era feature films produced at that time. The students also form film teams to make 20-minute movies that resonate with the themes and aesthetics of the Golden Age originals. The course will be taught again in Spring Quarter 2008.

Romance of the Fruit Peddler, 1922, directed by Zhang Shichuan
A charming, silent-era comedy about a lovesick street peddler whose life is disrupted by rowdy Shanghai prostitutes.

A String of Pearls, 1925, directed by Li Zeyuan
A morality tale about the cruel dynamics of downward social mobility in interwar Shanghai.

Romance of the Western Chamber, 1927, directed by Hou Yao
A sensational and decidedly Freudian treatment of desire and the “scholar meets beauty” theme—set in imperial China.

Small Toys, 1933, directed by Sun Yu
A sadomasochistic approach to the cruel fate of rural migrants in depression-era Shanghai.

The Goddess, 1934, directed by Wu Yonggang
A powerful, silent-era melodrama that features a noble and heroic prostitute who plies the mean streets of Shanghai.

Street Angel, 1937, directed by Yuan Muzhi
A careful and nearly film-noir treatment of the under classes of prewar Shanghai.

Mulan Joins the Army, 1939, directed by Bu Wancang
A proto-feminist historical drama with cross-dressing and subtle anti-Japanese currents.

Remorse in Shanghai, 1944, directed by Yue Fei, Hu Xinling, Inagaki Hiroshi
A highly controversial, some say treasonous, anti-British, anti-American historical drama made in Japanese-occupied Shanghai.

Fake Bride, Phony Bridegroom, 1947, directed by Huang Zuolin
A comedy about the antics of lovable and impish Shanghai con artists, set in Shanghai during the Civil War era.

Spring in a Small Town, 1948, directed by Fei Mu
A lyrical psychological drama about a failing marriage, set on the eve of the Communist revolution.


Paul G. Pickowicz


"And the Golden Chopsticks Go To..."