Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love And Duty (1931)

WHO: Ruan Lingyu, frequently called the Greta Garbo of the Shanghai film industry, stars.

WHAT: I don't know anything about this film except that it's extraordinarily rare, and a personal favorite of Frisco Bay-born critic Kevin B. Lee, who knows a thing or three about Chinese cinema. (You can hear more about Lee's unique path into cinephilia and film criticism in this podcast hosted by by Peter Labuza.) He even included it in his entry for the Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time Poll last year.

WHERE/WHEN: 7:00 tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

WHY: There are lots of reasons to see a Chinese silent film on a Wednesday night. Perhaps you're already in withdrawl from last weekend's Silent Winter event at the Castro. Perhaps you're ruing the negatively stereotyped Hollywood depictions of Chinese characters (played wonderfully, if broadly villainously, by Japanese actor Sojin and Chinese American Anna May Wong) in The Thief of Bagdad from that event, and want an antidote of Asian origin. Or perhaps you want to ring in the Year of the Snake in traditional style -- since the 4-Star didn't extend its long-standing tradition of showing prints of new Hong Kong releases for Chinese New Year, I believe tonight marks the first local unspooling of a 35mm print of a Chinese film in the New Lunar Year.

But the real reason Love And Duty is being screened tonight is because it's the eve of  a wonderful biennial Berkeley tradition: the Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, which runs from Thursday until Saturday and brings an impressive line-up of scholars to speak about topics relating to pre-talkie cinema from around the globe. I was able only to attend one of last year's lectures (from the dizzyingly brilliant Tom Gunning) but did catch some of the accompanying screenings. This year's overarching theme, "On Location" is of particular interest to me, so I hope to attend far more of the talks this year, and as many of the remaining screenings as I can. In addition to Love And Duty, which will be introduced by Berkeley's own Weihong Bao tonight, a pair of 1914 Westerns screen tomorrow with an introduction by UC Davis's Scott Simmon, and a fascinating-sounding, Soviet film called The Ghost That Does Not Return, that uses Azerbaijan as a stand-in for South America, will be shown and introduced by Anne Nesbet (also of Berkeley).

HOW: Love And Duty screens via a tinted 35mm print shipped over from the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, with Judith Rosenberg accompanying on piano.

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