If women hold up half the sky, Huang Shuqin must hold up a good bit of that half – in the cinematic world, at least. Born into an artist family in Shanghai in 1939, Huang studied at the Beijing Film Academy in the 1960s. She began her movie career as an assistant to famous director Xie Jin. Since then she has made a good many acclaimed films of her own, including Forever Young, Woman Demon Human, and A Soul Haunted by Painting. She has also plied her trade for TV, directing Fortress Besieged and Nie Zhai, both of which received high praise. Huang says she is interested in illustrating grand themes through ordinary figures and events.
Woman Demon Human (Ren Gui Qing) (1987)
The film is inspired by the true story of famous opera actress Pei Yanling, who also stars and gives a number of operatic performances throughout. Pei is represented onscreen by the fictional character Qiu Yun, who, like Pei, grew up in a traveling opera troupe after her mother eloped when she was child. With a determination to learn opera, Qiu studies hard and eventually becomes renowned for her performances as the male leads. On the stage she hides her own gender behind a man's role, in particular the underworld god Zhongkui, who fast becomes her favorite character. Off stage, Qiu has an unhappy personal life, but she finds solace through frequent conversations with Zhongkui in her mind, seeking his protection and consul by retreating deep into her imagination and her art. Often regarded as a feminist piece, the film probes deeply into a woman's psychological world.
Fortress Besieged (Wei Cheng) (1990)
Today, as we read Qian Zhongshu's novel Fortress Besieged, we can't help but think of the TV series of the same name, which renewed interest in the masterpiece 50 years after its release in 1947. The ten-program adaptation was faithful to Qian's full-length novel, while boasting an excellent cast and a number of electric performances. The multi-award winning series brings to life the crackling wit of a slew of Chinese intellectuals in pre-revolutionary China, and is as wonderfully crisp and engaging as the original work. The star-studded cast includes Chen Daoming, Lü Liping, Li Yuanyuan, Ying Da and Ge You.
(That's Beijing May 29, 2006)