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Faster Cha Cha for Shanghai Rumba

A film starring a real-life film couple in today's Shanghai which tells the love story of an actor and actress in the Shanghai of 60 years ago is to have an accelerated release in town this month, writes Xu Wei with the Shanghai Daily.

Well-known female director Peng Xiaolian had scheduled the Shanghai premiere of her latest movie, Shanghai Rumba for Valentine's Day, but now the screening has been brought forward to the Chinese lunar New Year holiday which starts late this month.

At a special screening of the film at the Shanghai Film Art Center on December 30, the audience, both young or old, applauded and praised it.

"This impressive movie is quite different from most commercial blockbusters where stunts and big scenes are usually the point," says Alice Zhang, a 20-something local movie buff. "It is full of nostalgia for old Shanghai which is always a fascinating magnet for generations of Chinese and overseas filmmakers."

It's a romantic love story and also marks the first time the hero and heroine -- real-life lovers Xia Yu and Yuan Quan -- have played a couple on the screen.

The movie is set in the 1940s. Wan Yu (Yuan), a traditional young Chinese woman whose dreams and youthful vigor are being stifled by her life in a feudal family, accidentally meets film star Ah Chuan (Xia) when she is invited to play a role in a film. Her life changes from that moment on.

According to director Peng, the script draws its inspiration from the legendary love story between late famous actor Zhao Dan (known as "The Prince of Film" in those days) and his actress wife Huang Zongying. A production of Shanghai Film Group Corp, it is also a tribute to the centennial of Chinese cinema.

"The youth, aspirations, struggles and passions of a former generation of film artists who lived and worked some 60 years ago are all depicted," says Peng. "I hope their experiences will resonate in the hearts of today's young actors."

The filming lasted for one and a half months at the Shanghai Film Shooting Base in suburban Songjiang District and a few other locations in the city such as the Lyceum Theater and Shanghai Writers' Association where the couple dance a hot rumba.

And there are a number of scenes showing how film crews of the era shot their movies. Famous local director Hu Xueyang is invited to play a director in the movie-within-the-movie to create an authentic atmosphere. Plus, antique cameras, optical lenses and recording and lighting devices from 60 years ago were also used in the film.

"The movie also mirrors the road that was full of challenges for the Chinese cinema in the past century," says a member of the audience who declines to be named. "But for the struggles and devotions of the old artists, there wouldn't be a bright future for today's young filmmakers."

Xu pengle, vice president of Shanghai Film Group Corp, agrees. "Nowadays the high artistry of the movies and our concern about the market will take the domestic film industry to new levels of prosperity," he says.

(Shanghai Daily January 5, 2006)

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