Love and Duty (1931) Poster


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Very Old Fashioned
For the record, Love and Duty (1931) was going to be a bit of a heavy lift for me as I know next to nothing about silent Chinese cinema and have a pretty low tolerance for melodramatic claptrap so take that into account here. Still, it's always best to test ones limits.

A woman is punished for following her true love instead of keeping with her arranged marriage, despite having two children that she must leave behind in the process. Things don't go to plan and hard times quickly descend around the pair and their new baby. Unfortunately the technical side of the movie is as uninspired as the story with the whole thing seeming more a product of filmmaking from the 'teens rather than as a very late (at least in the west) silent film. Perhaps my expectations for films of this period raised the bar a little too high. Photography is particularly maddening as the few interesting shots are far outweighed by closeups that are stunningly out of focus.

Director Wancang Bu brings little to the table but was able to maintain a career well into the '60s. The pace is fairly glacial, something I didn't expect and reflects more of early D. W. Griffith than the later innovators and at two and half hours is far too long. The stars, Lingyu Ruan, Yan Jin, and Ying Li seem held back by the material and direction but do maintain a certain degree of credibility in spite of it all. Poor Ms. Ruan, given the later troubles in her personal life the film is particularly ironic. Some minor decomposition in a couple of scenes but it's definitely better with them in and not terribly distracting.
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