Ruan Lingyu (阮玲玉) 1910-1935
"As an artist, I hate to be maligned. Rumours are horrible in any age. It's still just as scary now. A movie star doesn't need to make her private life public. What an ordeal if the public twists the facts and turn white into black. When your private life spills into public domain, you feel you're being stripped of everything bit by bit. That's the most traumatic experience. So I fully understand how Ruan felt then." - Maggie Cheung.
Ruan Lingyu was one of China's first predominant actresses, thrived in Shanghai's silent cinema scene in the 30s, and at the tender age of 25, committed suicide. But her inner motivations, what she liked, what she disliked, her dreams, were all taken to the grave with her, leaving Maggie Cheung (and the team) a half tabula-rosa to embody and a story to flesh out on film. And Cheung's performance is something to behold: breathing life into Ruan Lingyu once more, whoever she was 80-something years ago, and the talent she had on camera. Stanley Kwon combines biopic aspects from dramatization to documentation to archival footage, to create not just a reflection, but also a study of a sensitive, long-gone actress and an equally sensitive, lone-gone era, filled with societal pressures and expectations that don't exactly go away even with time.
Other thoughts: Stunningly beautiful Maggie Cheung, Shanghai silent cinema needs more delving into, and slow, so very slow.