Center Stage

"Tender, vivid and almost overwhelmingly moving."-Tony Rayns, Time Out London

"A masterpiece . . . the greatest Hong Kong film I've seen."-Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

(Ruan Lingyu, a.k.a. The Actress). After a string of memorable performances as strong-willed, beautiful, and virtuous (even in vice) women, the Chinese actress Ruan Lingyu committed suicide in 1935, at the age of twenty-four. She is now acknowledged as one of the country's greatest performers. Stanley Kwan's innovative film goes far beyond the traditional biopic to offer up several strata of “reality,” “reenactment,” and “cinema.” Detailed re-creations of scenes from the actress's too-short life (with superstar Maggie Cheung as Ruan and Tony Leung Ka-fai, Carina Lau, and Waise Lee as other real-life figures) combine with documentary interviews of her contemporaries, actual footage from her existing silent films, and even out-of-character discussions between Cheung, Kwan, and the cast about Ruan, her work, and her mystique. Like a Russian doll opening up layer after hidden layer, Center Stage reveals a modernist take on the ways in which cinema and culture create an actress, a legend, and a woman.

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