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An unnamed devoted mother sells herself by night on the streets of Shanghai in order to support herself and her infant son. When a gambler who calls himself "the Boss" strong-arms his way into becoming her pimp, she flees with her son and attempts to earn an honest living, but the Boss tracks her down and forces her back into prostitution. When her son reaches school age, she begins hiding away enough money to pay his tuition. Although her son is ostracized by other kids due to her profession, she takes great joy in providing an education and a potential better future for him. When the other parents want the boy expelled, a kindly principal fights to keep him in school. Meanwhile, the Boss finds her hidden cash, adding financial woes to the problems of social injustice. Written by
The film's title has several layers of meaning. On one level, it is a description of the nameless character played by Ruan Lingyu, who is equated with a protective goddess in the film. On another level, the title refers to her character's occupation, in that the Chinese term shennü, while primarily meaning "goddess", also was an old euphemism for a prostitute. See more »
A prophetic and visionary allegory of Chinese history, and an illuminating comment on the dynamics of repression. The protagonist is Mother China. Despoiled by international society, she must peddle her ass on the streets of Shanghai to support her son.
She is raped by a fat gambler, who then moves in with her, keeping her son as hostage. This lecherous clown looks very like the young Mao.
Wanting him to succeed in life, she sends her son to school, but he is expelled when outraged parents find out who his mother is. The old principal resigns.
If this incomparable film acquires an effective score it will spell the end for the Chinese Communist Party.
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