The Big Road
Weihong Bao is an associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures and film studies at UC Berkeley.
Jin Yan, Zheng Junli, Li Lili, Liu Jing,
A group of hopeful Chinese youth awaken to their patriotic duty while building a strategic highway in Sun Yu’s stirring socialist agitprop drama, set during the Japanese invasion of the country and starring a who’s-who of legendary Chinese actors, including Jin Yan (the “Chinese Valentino”), Zheng Junli, and Li Lili. The collective body politic may be glorified here, but the body itself is as well, with frequent, frequently steamy shots of shirtless (and in one case, completely nude) heroes peppered among the calls to collective labor. Originally shot as a silent film, it was later released with sound effects and populist songs spliced into a soundtrack.