14 user 17 critic

Center Stage (1991)

Ruan Ling Yu (original title)
Biopic of 1930's Chinese actress Lingyu Ruan.


Stanley Kwan


Peggy Chiao, Kang Chien Chiu (as Peggy Chiu)
12 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Maggie Cheung ... Ruan Ling-yu / Self
Han Chin ... Tang Chi-Shan / Self
Tony Ka Fai Leung ... Tsai Chu-sheng / Self
Carina Lau ... Lily Li / Self
Waise Lee ... Li Min-wei
Li-li Li Li-li Li ... Self (as Lily Li)
Lawrence Ng ... Chang Ta-Min / Self
Cecilia Yip ... Lin Chu-Chu
Kelvin Wong ... Nier Erh
San Yip San Yip ... Ms Liu
Paul Chang Chung ... Boss of Lianhua (as Paul Chang)
Yanyan Chen ... Self - Interview
Lingyu Ruan Lingyu Ruan ... Self (archive footage)
Daisy Tian Dai Daisy Tian Dai ... Hsiao-Yu (3 years)
Ta-Nan Huang Ta-Nan Huang


A film so delicate you can almost break it off in your hand, this is a stunning biography of Ruan Lingyu, China's first real movie star, a woman who lived a "colorful" life and was dead before she was 30. Director Stanley Kwan deftly mixes his narrative with actual film clips, re-creations of lost films, interviews with survivors, and his own conversations with his cast. The result is a kaleidoscope of emotion and tragedy. Maggie Cheung is nothing less than astonishing as Ruan, and she is ably supported by Tony Leung (of Anna's the lover). Written by STSH

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actress | See All (1) »


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Did You Know?


One of the motion pictures whose production is depicted within this film is "The Goddess." This movie is also in the book "1001 movies you must see before you die" by Steven Jay Schneider, marking only one of a few instances where a movie so listed is mentioned in another movie listed in the book. See more »


References San ge mo deng nu xing (1932) See more »


Buried My Heart
Music by Johnny Chen
Lyrics by Daryl Yao
Performed by Tracy Huang
See more »

User Reviews

Cheung is China's actress.
25 September 2004 | by film-criticSee all my reviews

This film took me two weeks to watch. I had begun this film , but found myself so bored with the story that it couldn't keep my interest. In fact, last night when I finally finished the film, I had to keep myself awake by pulling at my hairs on my head to keep me from dozing during this documentary.

I call it a documentary, but it is actually a representation of her life as an actress played by modern actresses. It is similar to the film JFK with several actors playing the part of actual people with clips of the event sewn throughout the film. This was quite possibly the dullest film ever made. I am surprised that it won any awards, much less sweeping the Hong Kong Film Festival. The characters were one-dimensional. They had no spirit, no soul, no care only to walk around in period piece costumes. Everyone in this movie is exceedingly composed - they speak carefully, and walk perpetually as if on eggshells. No one really comes alive until a scene at a dance hall near the end.

But despite all the sugary politeness, Cheung successfully conveys a woman who is being slowly destroyed by her oppressive environment. There are a couple scenes in which she completely loses it, and it's very affecting to watch, but not worth two hours of my time. I had trouble understanding this film. There was a rumor that when it was released at the film festival in 1992, it was accidentally shown out of order, yet it still won the praise of critics. That doesn't make any sense to me. How can a film be out of sequence, yet still being considered the best out there? There was times that I felt I was watching a PBS special, but a very poorly done special.

If a person from the streets were to come up to me and ask me what my favorite part of this film to me would be, I would have no answer. I did not like one portion of this film. The characters were dull, the story was tough to follow, and the pacing was completely off. Nothing made sense in this film. No acting actually occurred in this film. This was one of my first experiences with Hong Kong cinema, and I think I perhaps started on the wrong foot. I am looking forward to my next film from Hong Kong, because it can only be better than this. Even if it only showed growing grass for an hour and a half, it would be better. Perhaps I am being too negative about this film, but I just couldn't get into it.

Sorry Hong Kong!

Grade: * out of *****

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Hong Kong


Cantonese | Mandarin | English

Release Date:

20 February 1992 (Hong Kong) See more »

Also Known As:

Center Stage See more »

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Technical Specs


(director's cut) | (edited) | (restored DVD)

Sound Mix:



Black and White (some scenes)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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