The Love Eterne
Paul Fonoroff is an expert on Chinese cinema who lived for years in Hong Kong and is currently based in Bangkok.
Betty Loh Ti, Ivy Ling Bo, Jen Chieh, Li Kwun,
The highest grossing Chinese-language film of the era, Li Han-hsiang’s classic 1963 musical opera proved a sensation across China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, modernizing a beloved traditional folk tale through Li’s unabashed embrace of the pure artifice of cinema. A young girl disguises herself as a man to attend school and meets her soulmate (acted by a woman); their friendship and eventual romance plays at first like a comedy with a Lubitsch touch, and then as utter tragedy. From painted sets to fake fog, The Love Eterne is cinema as total theatricality, a subject of multiple remakes, and “the jewel in Shaw Brothers’ illustrious crown” (Brian Hu). The film was especially a huge hit in Taiwan, where a young Ang Lee was transfixed. “Some people claimed to have seen it 500 times,” he recalled in a memorable New York Times article. “Every time I see this movie, I cry.”