series Sat. night---"Wuya yu maque," or "Crows and Sparrows," 1949,
dir. Junli Zheng:
(From the Center's e-mail description)
"Shooting was completed several days before the People's Liberation
Army entered Shanghai on May 2, 1949; prior to this time, filmmakers
were harassed by censors and hid the film in a studio ceiling to avoid
confiscation. Set in a boarding house, the film portrays the tenants'
struggle to keep their homes after a greedy Nationalist official plots
to sell the building [he had commandeered] and run off to Taiwan.
Rather than uniting effectively, the tenants squabble and scatter
like sparrows that are bullied by larger crows." In the end, though,
the "Monkey" (as they all call the slum lord) is gone and the formerly
downtrodden share the building in communal bliss.
Apart from the fascinating political context (with, for instance, a
character who is a teacher and tries not to rock the boat when fellows
are being arrested, but ends up arrested himself anyway), it had some
truly fine performances and great faces and some surprisingly well-
drawn characters (considering their number and the overt political
message of the film). Plus one guy---really the spiritual hero of
the house, Old Kong---is a proofreader, and we get to see him at work
at one point.
I have to say, it's really staying with me. I find myself pondering
the characters and kinda believing they existed.