Ruan LingyuI want to praise Edinburgh’s Cinema China 07′s organisers to choose Centre Stage (a.k.a. The Actress) as the opening film. Not only this gives them a good reason to invite Maggie Cheung, of whom I am a fan, to come to the festival, but also this is a fitting opening for a festival that celebrates a century of Chinese cinema.

I first watched this film more than ten years ago in Hong Kong. At that time I was already interested in the history of Chinese cinema and had begin working on my project Chinese Movie Database. The impact of this film on me, looking back now, was that it made me realise that the early (1930s) Chinese films could be attractive and sexy. The beautiful and enigmatic Ruan Lingyu became this focal point of my interest in early Chinese cinema. This film tells the history of the Shanghai era of silent cinema through Ruan Lingyu, with great passion. I guess there must have been some influence from Peggy Chiao, the film producer and critics from Taiwan, who provided the concept of this film. We saw the director and actresses interview the characters they played, and be interviewed. Scenes of the lost films were re-constructed. And when Zhang Damin visited Ruan Lingyu’s new home unexpectedly, I could almost see a glimpse of The Goddess.

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