I can't believe I'm the first one to review this gorgeous movie! The colours, the camerawork, the composition, all are absolutely exquisite, even in my cheap vhs copy.
The story is set in about 1930, seemingly in Shanghai or some other big, cynical Chinese city. Su Fang (Fang Shu) totally dominates the movie in her role as Chen Bailu, the lady who is forced by poverty to leave her poet husband and become a courtesan, living unhappily among riches. Her training is to display joy and pleasure at all times, even though this is only an act for the benefit of customers. What really shatters her complacency is the coming of a new, very young, employee who is both frightened and angry...and lacks the social graces necessary to survive. Chen Bailu cares enough for this new girl to pretend that she's her adopted daughter, and her death comes as a terrible blow.
The plot details can be difficult to follow; but much of the meaning can be found in the contrast between the beautiful images of the "smart people" and the painful lives they lead.
Apparently the novel by Yu Cao is considered a Chinese classic and has been done several times, but it is difficult to see how anyone could do a better job than this.
See this movie, it's a rare and beautiful experience!
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