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Like a handsome Bollywood epic, Two Stage Sisters a film by Jin Xie has something for everyone -- sympathetic heroines, evil capitalists, great music, Hollywood-style melodrama, and revolutionary fervor. Set in pre-Revolutionary China, it is a tragic melodrama with strong political overtones. Though revolutionary in spirit, the film was banned after its debut for "bourgeois humanism", ostensibly making the reactionary sister seem too sympathetic. The director himself was imprisoned at the start of the Cultural Revolution.
In Two Stage Sisters, a runaway peasant girl, Zhu Chunhua (Fang Xie), is taken in by an opera troupe and meets Xing Yuehong (Yindi Cao) and her kind father, Master Xing. When the father dies, the two actresses go to Shanghai and perform in the Shaoxing Opera, displacing the former singer, Miss Shang (Yunzhu Shangguan) who grows bitter and resentful towards the manager, Master Tang. Yuehong and Chunhua become close friends but it is obvious they are moving in different directions. Chunhua meets a revolutionary cadre who points out how women are exploited and oppressed, making sure to point out that its not just the fault of the bosses but their bosses and beyond that, the Americans.
Chunhua attends political meetings and becomes involved in the Revolution while Yuehong marries Master Tang and lives in style - wearing Western clothes, high heels, elaborate headdresses, and makeup. When Chunhua refuses to stop a play objected to by the bosses, she is assaulted and comes face to face in court with Yuehong who is forced to testify against her, setting the stage for a dramatic climax. Powerful and involving, Two Stage Sisters is an important film and a rare treat for the senses.
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