• The Goddess (1934)

    *** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Extremely good silent drama from China about a devoted and loving mother (Lingyu Ruan) who wants the best for her young child so by night she works as a prostitute. This leads her to take all sorts of abuse by the other women in her area but worse of all is the abuse she takes from a man (Zhizhi Zhang) who pretty much takes possession of her. THE GODDESS is without question a true gem and certainly one of the best Chinese pictures I've seen from this era. It's easy to see why this film was such a hit in China when it was originally released and especially when one learns that many women in that era were working as prostitutes to support themselves. Making a silent film in 1934 certainly wasn't the norm at the time but I honestly don't think this movie would have worked had there been sound. Director Yonggang Wu does a masterful job at making everything flow so well that the added words would have just taken away from its poetic beauty. The film flows from one bad situation to the next and after a while you begin to realize that whenever something nice happens for the young mother then sure enough something bad will follow. What really makes this film work so well is the amazing performance by Ruan who apparently felt many of the same emotions as this character. From what I've read, before this film she had several suicide attempts and she eventually did kill herself about a year after this picture was released. Her performance is simply one of the best from this era in any film because of the emotion and love she shows for her kid. Even better is when the pain of her situation and "job" begin to haunt her. Zhang, who plays the abusive jerk, is certainly a major snake that people will have no trouble in hating. The only negative thing is that the film never really bothers to tell us how the mother got into this situation and there's really no explanation as to why she doesn't try doing something else. Still, THE GODDESS is without question a real gem with one of the best performances that you're going to see.