Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Independent Film Guide - C

Center Stage Movie Review

cheung ling ruan actress

In spite of the fact that portions of Center Stage were shown out of sequence at the Berlin Film Festival, Maggie Cheung still won a much-deserved Best Actress Award for her breathtaking performance as Ruan Ling-Yu. Variety's review was just a tad chilly, although its critic neglected to mention the mixed-up reels at the screening in his report, tsk-tsk. He did describe the “inadequate” translation, which is exactly what occurred when I first saw it. Imagine, if you will, two Ruan Ling-Yu fans shaking a fellow viewer who could only read the Cantonese subtitles when many sequences (including the climax!) of an edited copy of the film were entirely in Mandarin. Luckily, Tai Seng Video has come up with the full (154 minute) version with English subtitles so Western audiences can savor Maggie Cheung's exquisite work here to full advantage. Ruan Ling-Yu was China's leading actress in 1935 when she committed suicide, leaving behind a note: “Gossip is a dreadful thing.” Her offscreen life was difficult and complex, but on film Ruan Ling-Yu was wonderfully perceptive and deeply lucid. Cheung, with her own unique style and presence, succeeds in unlayering the mystery behind this legendary star. In one heartbreaking sequence, Cheung as Ling-Yu has already made her decision to die, but she moves with elegant grace among the members of her profession, responding with warm affection to the well wishers who are already celebrating her introduction to talking pictures (Chinese films were silent until 1935). Director Stanley Kwan re-creates the look and feel of the ‘30s and includes footage of the real Ruan Ling-Yu in The Peach Blossom Weeps Tears of Blood, The Goddess, and New Women. Black-and-white interviews with aging contemporaries of the late actress are also included, as well as discussions with Cheung about her own approach to the material. Even die-hard movie buffs may never have heard of Ruan Ling-Yu; Center Stage is an excellent introduction to her life and work, and Cheung's riveting star turn is not to be missed! AKA: The Actress; Ruan Ling-Yu; The New China Woman.

1991 154m/C HK Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung ChiuWai, Shin Hong, Carina Lau, Lawrence Ng, Waise Lee, Cheung Chung, Siu Sheung, Yip Sang; D: Stanley Kwan; W: Yau Tai On-Ping; C: Poon Hang-Seng. VHS

Century Movie Review [next] [back] Cemetery Man Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or