Sunday, April 27, 2014

Movie of the Week: New Women (1935) (Review)

New Women ("Xin nĂ¼ xing") was the featured film for the week of April 14th-21st

*In this post, the "first" names of performers are actually their surnames. I'm not certain of other cultures, but most residents of China write their names as "surname | first name"*


There are just some movies that leave you feeling really bummed out--for me, New Women was one of them.


Film Title (Screenshot from Youtube)


"After being abandoned by the husband she eloped with, Wei Ming (Ruan Lingyu) seeks new life in Shanghai. She becomes a music teacher in a private school and aspires to become a writer. With the heRlp of her friend Yu Haichou (Zheng Junli), her first book is going to be published. The publisher, however, gets interested in publishing it only after her true identity as a beautiful woman is revealed. The trustee of the school, Dr. Wang (Wang Naidong), although a married man, keeps proposing to Wei Ming and secretly has her expelled after being rejected by her. Being unemployed, and having to save her child, who falls seriously ill shortly after their reunion, Wei Ming relents to a one-night sexual encounter in order to collect money, but only finds herself being disgraced by her face client--Dr. Wang." [Source] (Contains spoilers)

Saying any more about this monumental film would only spoil it, so I will continue on to my opinions on the movie and its performances.



New Women is a Chinese-language (Mandarin, according to IMDb) silent film. The language barrier didn't make it difficult or "impossible" for me to keep up with, but I did refer to a few online summaries to clue me in on a few things. I don't have too much to say about the story and/or the writing, but hopefully the upcoming statement will sum up what I thought about the movie overall. Are you ready?

Ruan Lingyu (from Wikipedia)

New Women is a movie that should be screened in every Women's Studies class, every Women's History class, and every Journalism class. For many reasons, it is a monumental film in Chinese Cinema history and for the same reasons, it should be monumental in Cinema everywhere. If you read about the movie's reception and unfortunate events that took place after the film's release, then you'll understand why I say this.

 *To really put things into perspective, I provide more information on this at the very bottom of this post*



There were no bad performances in this movie. In fact, everyone was great. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I want to say that everyone's performance was genuine. Every performer "got" (understood) their characters and the characters' purposes and again, played them with such honesty and (for lack of a better word) subtly. The cast worked so well together, too--as though they were all very good friends off set. Again, every performance was so genuine--especially the performance of the movie's star, Ruan Lingyu (westernized: Lingyu Ruan). Everyone was just perfect for their role. 

Wei Ming's sister (Tang Tianxiu) and her (Wei Ming's) daughter (Chen Sujuan) on a train



There are quite a few flashbacks in this film--each one important to the plot--however, I don't know if this had to do with the film's age or what, but the flashbacks could have been a bit more clean and precise. They sort of creep up on you, but it's not so much that you'll feel completely thrown off. It just may take you awhile to realize that you're watching a flashback. At least, that was a problem for me.

Dr. Wang (Wang Naidong) consoles Mrs. Wang (played by Wang Moqiu)

Overall, I liked the visuals in this movie--even the use of flashbacks and split screens. There were some things (both subtle and obvious) that were just visually appealing--things that any cinematographer/director worth his or her salt may try to "borrow" at some point in their careers. Everything from the camera to the effects and transitions to the props gave "performances" and it was just really cool to watch.


Overall Thoughts

Wei Ming (Ruan Lingyu) urges her publisher friend, Yu, (played by Zheng Junli) to stay.

The movie starts off a little slow, but once you get an understanding of what's going on (if you're a non-Mandarin speaker like myself, you may need some assistance through the movie's Wikipedia page--I don't recommend reading the entire synopsis all at once--just bits and pieces as you go along into the movie), you'll be drawn in. It's one of those movies that makes you think, or reflect, rather. I highly recommend that everyone check it out.

*Watch New Women (1935) on Youtube*


Additional Information/Spoiler Alert

The life of Wei Ming in New Women is based on the life of an actress named Ai Xia, who committed suicide in 1934. As mentioned in the movie's summary, Wei Ling hits many bumps in the road until one big bump leads her to commit suicide. As she lay on her death bed, she learns that she's been slandered in a local newspaper and vows to get revenge, however, she dies before she gets her vengeance. One month and a few days after this film's theatrical release, it's star, Ruan Lingyu, whose private life had been frequently ravaged by tabloids, committed suicide at the age of 24. The similarity in the deaths of Wei Ming, Ai Xia, and Ruan Lingyu are quite eerie.

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