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CENTER STAGE (1991)
Available to your home theater through the Olympia Film Society
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International superstar Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) embodies tragic screen siren Ruan Lingyu, known as the “Greta Garbo of China,” in this unconventional biopic by Hong Kong New Wave master Stanley Kwan (Rouge). Praised for her moving and emotive onscreen presence, Ruan’s private life, which was frequent fodder for the vicious Shanghai tabloids, began to mirror the melodramas which brought her fame, culminating in her suicide at age 24. Kwan and Cheung paint a kaleidoscopic yet intimate portrait of the ill-fated actress, deftly blending lush period drama, archival footage, and metatextual documentary sequences of Cheung reflecting on Ruan’s legacy. The result is, much like the films of Ruan Lingyu themselves, “tender, vivid and almost overwhelmingly moving” (Time Out).
Dir: Stanley Kwan / 1991 / Hong Kong / 154 min
“One of the indisputably great Chinese works of the past decade and Kwan’s most thrilling, concentrated and dazzling achievement.” — Patrick Z. McGavin, Chicago Tribune
“For me, Center Stage has always been at the top of the heap of biopics, the measuring stick by which I judge all others” — Sheila O’Malley, RogerEbert.com
“A masterpiece by Stanley Kwan, the greatest Hong Kong film I’ve seen.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum