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桃花泣血記 (1931)
The Peach Girl

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/29/2011
Summary: Ah, Lingyu

Sound took a long time to arrive in China. Paradoxically, this allows us to more easily understand the early silents from Shanghai, because the intertitles were rendered in both Chinese and English. This has surely helped worldwide audiences to finally appreciate the tragic Ruan Lingyu (also billed as Lily Yuen) as one of the greats of the era.

Lingyu sails through Peach Girl with sublime beauty and grace. Much of the story is tragic, and she magnificently affects the sadness and suffering which is perhaps inevitable for the beautiful poor farm girl. Although clearly a vehicle for Lingyu, the support cast are more than competent. The standout is her stalwart father, a righteous man who defends their farm and the village against bandits in the opening sequence. The proud landlady, shaking from opium addiction, is also compelling.

Though somewhat of cliché today, this suffering woman story is executed with heart-rending precision, and is watchable and even enthralling throughout. A must-see for anyone who loves silent cinema.

Reviewer Score: 9