Review

  • One of the most important productions of the golden age of Chinese films because of its symbolism was director Wu Yonggang's first endeavor,"The Goddess" (Shennu). The title of the film was the Shanghai way of describing a woman who sells her body. Ruan plays a prostitute who uses her earnings to support and educate her son. The heroine is forced to enter the oldest of professions, as it is the only way for her and her child to survive and to provide for his education. More than any other film, "The Goddess" captures the misery and hopelessness of China at the time. Ruan is the symbol of China's suffering. Only as a prostitute could she support her child and give him an education. "The Goddess" was a breakthrough for the director Wu in his sympathetic depiction of a prostitute. He used montage to portray Shanghai at night. He also shows that she was moral, but evil forces were the cause of her plight. A new DVD with English inter-titles and a beautiful piano score by Kevin Purrone is available from The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (www.silentfilm.org). My new book "Ruan Ling-yu: The Goddess of Shanghai" published by Hong Kong University Press tells the tragic story of Ruan Ling-yu.