上海伦巴 | Shanghai Lunba

Shanghai Lunba

The last film of Peng Xiaolian’s Shanghai Trilogy, Shanghai Rumba is based on a true story. The film draws us into 1940’s Shanghai, when Kuomintang’s corruption was at its zenith, while ironically retaining the opulence of its golden age in the film industry. The film is about the making of Crows and Sparrows as well as the difficulties of women’s entry into the society at that time, as told through the story of an actress. Wanyu’s life has been marked by historical turmoil and changes in Shanghai at the time. She is forced to play the role of the good wife after marrying into a wealthy family, but cannot shake off her true calling as a film actress after being inspired by Gone with the Wind. Chosen as a heroine for Crows and Sparrows and free from her stifling and restricted life, her dream comes true. Wanyu falls in love with Ah Chuan, who plays opposite her in the film. But he gives up her love because of the burdens his family has imposed on him. They part ways and meet again on the set of a film several years later. The life of an actress, who never gives up her dream and love in the mist of turmoil, unfolds through the alternating focus on the inside and outside of the 1940’s Shanghai film scene. Though based on a true story, this is the most glamorous and dramatic of Peng’s films.

Directed by Xiaolian Peng | Starring : Quan Yuan, Yu Xia, Yi Guan, Jie Cui, Xin Gao | Presented at N/A

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美丽上海 | Shanghai Story

Shanghai Story

The Kang family was once well-off, owning a garden house in Shanghai, until catastrophe befell them in the late 1960s. The four adult children of the family are now scattered and residing in three places: Shanghai, Inner Mongolia and San Francisco. When the mother is suddenly hospitalized, the children return to see her. The family reunion, however, is anything but a happy event: the four siblings are unable to even have one peaceful dinner together, and the mother herself has serious matters to settle with all of them.

Directed by Xiaolian Peng | Starring : Joey Wang, Zhenyao Zheng, Youliang Zhao, Josephine Koo, Yuanzheng Feng | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival

假装没感觉 | Shanghai Women

Shanghai Women

After Women’s Story, Peng returns to the most straightforward representation of women’s issues in Shanghai Women, a film about three rural women. As the first work in Peng’s Shanghai Trilogy, Shanghai Women describes the problem that women encounter trying to secure urban (residential) space through the story of women from three generations: a grandmother, mother and a daughter, Ah-xia. Fed up with her philandering husband, the mother decides to divorce and moves with Ah-xia to grandmother’s. The grandmother lives with her son, with his wedding on the horizon. Grandmother’s becomes too cramped for comfort because of the larger family. To secure their place, mother accepts a reluctant marriage arranged by the grandmother, with Li, who lives with his son. Li is nitpicking, stingy, and even violent and finally the mother and Ah-xia leave the place together. The mother considers a remarriage with her ex-husband but Ah-xia encourages her mother to make their own future together and find their own place. The film reveals the realities of an urban divorced woman and her insecure life if she leaves her husband’s house in a scene where mother and daughter ceaselessly wander about creek-side areas in Shanghai.

Directed by Xiaolian Peng | Starring : Liping Lü, Haiying Sun, Zhenyao Zheng, Wenqian Zhou, Jing-ming Shi | Presented at Cairo Film Festival, Nantes Film Festival

上海纪事 | Once Upon a Time in Shanghai

Once upon a Time in Shanghai

The film begins in the fall of 1948 and ends in the winter of 1950 in Shanghai. What happened in Shanghai when the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China were at war, in other words, during the Chinese Civil War? Peng returns to this most confusing time in Shanghai and pulls out the history of those days. The protagonists are mainly Huirong, Zhaobai, and Jikan, who have studied business management in the USA and have returned to their hometown, Shanghai. Huirong and Zhaobai are engaged, and although three of them are close friends, problems arise when they find out that their opinions clash on the matter of what the objective for building a new China should be and what direction it should take. Huirong is an anti-American communist who protects his father’s factory in order to clothe the Chinese people in Chinese clothes, while Jikan is an economist working at the Ministry of Finance of the Kuomintang, and Huirong’s husband Zhaobai is a freelance photographer for foreign media. The film dramatizes just how past friends are divided into the anti-American communist woman and the Kuomintang man, and an observing man who watches all the confusion, in the midst of all the chaos of the times, the ban on gold trading, inflation, and the anti-Kuomintang students’ movement, and how they fall into the pit of history where they kill each other and are killed. The nightline of Shanghai today which continues to shine beyond Zhaobai, the only survivor, seems even more superficial. By continuously making use of night scenes and hazy smoke, this is an epic that illustrates the reality of Shanghai, which has fallen into a deep pit, and the future of China at the time, hidden behind thick smoke.

Directed by Xiaolian Peng | Starring : Ya’nan Wang, Quan Yuan, Shaoan Dai, Li Wei, Guochun Wei | Presented at N/A

女人的故事 | Women’s Story

Women's Story

Women’s Story was the first work to garner international acclaim for Peng Xiaolian. It is about three women living in China’s northern countryside and straightforwardly raises the issue of gender inequality hidden in a communist society. The reality of women’s lives in the film is very similar to that of Cuiqiao’s in Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige), a film made during the same period. Both films show the fact that farmers and intellectuals, rural and urban, man and woman are not equal in the operation of the communist ideology and criticize the Confucian patriarchal tradition still surviving in rural peasant society. The film insists on the addition of an adjective, ‘patriarchal,’ before communism. There are three women in the film: Laizima, Xiaofeng and Jinxiang. Laizima bring raises her 8-year-old son by herself, Xiaofeng is sold into marriage to a deaf-mute, and Jinxiang has to sell linsey thread. They go to the big city together but are deceived and get lost and in trouble on the way. They finally return home but waiting for them are their families and the deaf-mute who was supposed to be married to Xiaofeng. Against the deaf man with a rope and his friend with a hoe, Xiaofeng slowly walks towards them and at that moment Laizima and Jinxiang stand abreast with Xiaofeng. They march off against two men together. This is a women’s film resisting through women’s solidarity and revealing patriarchal practices such as the preference of sons over daughters, the exchange of women between tribes through marriage, and financial subordination in China.

Directed by Xiaolian Peng | Starring : Wenrong Zhang, Min Zhang, Ruhui Song, Xiaojie Lin, Zhenjun He | Presented at N/A