Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Independent Film Guide - L

Love and Duty Movie Review

ling ruan yang naifan

At the time of her suicide at 25, Ruan Ling-Yu was China's leading actress and the sudsy Love and Duty shows why. As Yang Naifan, Ling-Yu ages from a sheltered school girl to a chic matron to a runaway lover to an old-before-her-time seamstress, raising her illegitimate daughter without the support of her long-dead lover. Ling-Yu worked from the inside out, so her evolution is persuasively achieved with very little makeup. (Only her front tooth is blacked out as the seamstress, something no Western star of comparable magnitude would ever dare to do!) With a minimalist, deeply moving acting style, Ling-Yu skillfully interprets Yang Naifan's many transformations, and, interestingly, her inner turmoil is revealed in a series of fantasies that show the intense psychological pressures that crush her spirit at every turn. Love and Duty gives us a fascinating glimpse at a China that appears both ultra-modern and saturated with tradition. Our sympathy for Yang Naifan's lover is lost when he insists that she abandon her small children, our interest in her absentminded husband increases as we see what a tender and considerate father he is to their son and daughter. But Ruan Ling-Yu's greatest gift as an actress was her ability to dig into the soul of a character so that her many fans could set aside whatever troubling questions they may have had about WHY someone like Yang Naifan made such incomprehensible life choices. We don't DARE drag our eyes away from her face for a single second, because Ruan Ling-Yu solves mysteries of the heart with such subtle expressions and simple gestures. The greatest mystery of all, of course, is why, until quite recently, a jewel like Ruan Ling-Yu was known only to the audiences of her own time and country. She died just as the Chinese film industry was launching sound films, leaving behind a note, “Gossip is a dreadful thing.” Among her few extant films are 1931's The Peach Blossom Weeps Tears of Blood plus The Goddess and New Women, both filmed in 1934. AKA: Lian'ai Yu Yiwu.

1931 152m/B CH Ruan Ling-Yu, Jin Yan, Chen Yanyan, Li Yi; D: Bu Wancang; W: Zhu Shilin; C: Huang Shaofen.

Love and Human Remains Movie Review [next] [back] Love and Death on Long Island 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