Saturday, June 30, 2018

Wu jiaqi / Spoiling the Wedding Day

Wu jiaqi / Spoiling the Wedding Day. Han Fei (Xiao Laba) and Li Lihua (Ah Cui). On a blind date they immediately discover they are childhood friends. But they cannot marry because there is no place for newlyweds to stay.

誤佳期 / [Matrimonio rimandato]
    Directors: Zhu Shilin, Bai Chen. Year: 1951. Country: Hong Kong.
    Scen.: Lu Jue. F.: Cao Jinyun. M.: Wang Chaoyi. Scgf.: Bao Tianming. Mus.: Li Houxiang, Chun Zhi. Int.: Han Fei (Xiao Laba), Li Lihua (Ah Cui), Li Ciyu (Wang Dagu), Lan Qing (la madre), Liu Lian (Wang Dasao), Jiang Ming (il padre), Ren Yizhi (A Ying). Prod.: Longma yingpian gongsi. DCP. D.: 110’. Bn.
    Mandarin version with French subtitles.
    DCP from Centre de Documentation sur le Cinéma Chinois (Paris).
    DCP provided by Wu Xingzai and deposited at CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, The Rebirth of Chinese Cinema (1941-1951), 30 June 2018.

Tony Rayns (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Director Zhu Shilin came under professional and political attack in Shanghai after the war and moved to Hong Kong – soon followed by his friend and collaborator Fei Mu. His work in Hong Kong’s nascent Mandarin-language film industry (most of it for leftist companies) ranged from historical dramas and earnest literary adaptations to sprightly comedies, the latter reflecting his long-time enthusiasm for Lubitsch movies. Case in point: Wu Jiaqi, which combines the ‘shining through’ qualities of the pre-war Shanghai classic Malu Tianshi (Street Angel, Yuan Muzhi, 1937, itself influenced by Borzage movies) with some smart, inventive plot twists and turns that are clearly indebted to Lubitsch. The direction is co-credited to Bai Chen, but no-one doubts that Zhu was the auteur."

"Fellow refugees from the mainland film industry Li Lihua and Han Fei star as tough-minded factory girl Cui and a naïve young trumpet-player respectively. Friends in childhood, they meet again as adults and decide to marry – only to face unforeseen obstacles every time they name the day. There is little or no reference to the realities of Hong Kong life in 1951 (in Hong Kong almost everyone speaks Cantonese!), which confirms that the story remains rooted in a Shanghai sensibility. In fact, as the mainland’s new government moved to bring film production under complete state control in the early 1950s, films like this represented a direct continuation of the Shanghai traditions that were being superseded in China."
Tony Rayns

Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung: "Wu Jiaqi was directed by Zhu Shilin and Bai Chen. It was set in Hong Kong just after the War. The main protagonists were two young lovers, interpreted by Li Lihua and Han Fei. The girl was called Ah Cui and her fiancé held the nickname of ‘Little Trumpet’ (Xiao Laba), because he plays the trumpet. It is a clin d’œil to the character played by Zhao Dan in the famous Street Angel. Both of them were workers and because they were very poor, which was the situation of many refugees at that time in Hong Kong, their marriage was always postponed by some material difficulties. When he saw the film, Georges Sadoul said it reminded him of Il tetto by Vittorio De Sica (1956). It is true that the film has a flavor of neo-realism, although at that time, in Shanghai as in Hong Kong, Chinese directors knew very little of Italian cinema. Wu Jiaqi is a charming comedy in which the influence of Lubitsch can also be felt, full of good spirit and very merry, even if, as in a De Sica film, the optimism of the protagonists is sometimes mixed with bitterness. It is one of the best films Zhu Shilin (1899–1967) made in Hong Kong. He was a famous writer and director in Shanghai in the 1930s and early 1940s. He went to Hong Kong in 1946 and worked for several movie companies, first at Dazhonghua, then at Yonghua where he made Qing Gong Mishi (Secret History of the Qing Court) in 1948. Later he joined Longma and Fenghuang where he directed some of his most significant films." Marie Claire Kuo and Kuo Kwan Leung

AA: The blind date meeting at the tea house is good-humoured. It immediately turns out that the partners are childhood friends. Yet they are shy in a funny way. The grip of the directors Zhu Shilin and Bai Chen is assured in a restless, bustling sequence.

Wu jiaqi is a comedy of hardships. The guy Xiao Laba (Han Fei) is a trumpetist, a wedding player but he cannot wed himself because every time there are obstacles that make marriage impossible. Most seriously, there is no place for the newlyweds to live. A highlight of the movie is a rousing montage of building a room for the young lovers. Alas, it is immediately demolished as it was built without permission on land in development.

The father is a construction worker, but he falls from the scaffold and is badly injured. Nevertheless, he offers his own room to the young ones, but when he is found sleeping on the street that plan is discarded.

Just when the adversity starts to seem daunting the girlfriends of Ah Cui (Li Lihua) join forces and collect funds to prepare a room for the couple. There is a happy wedding celebration.

"We poor folk must look on the support of others. If we count on individual effort we never go anywhere. Stick together, help each other."

Xiao Laba finally gets to play in his own wedding. He plays "Solidarity Forever" (the same tune as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") which we also heard two days ago in John M. Stahl's When Tomorrow Comes (1939); the connection is meaningful. "Solidarity, my sisters. Unity is strength".

The DCP has been created from difficult sources, and there is even video static for a while.

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