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Gabriel de Gravone
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 »
In 2008, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) broadcast a 73-minute version of this film with music composed and performed by Donald Sosin. See more »
The Goddess (Lingyu Ruan) works the Shanghai street as a prostitute to raise her beloved son. She falls under the control of The Boss. She tries to escape the life but she is pushed back in. He's an illiterate sadistic brute who even pretends to sell her son to put her in fear. Her son is ostracized by the other kids and she uses her hard earned money to pay for an education. The other parents find out and try to get him expelled. The elderly principal struggles to let him stay but he is unsuccessful. The boss steals the money she had hidden away.
This is a throughly modern movie. It's a silent movie from China. The lead actress is terrific. It is such a downtrodden portrayal. It's also amazing to see Shanghai during its 30s Golden Age. This is a treasure of a time gone by.
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