- Diaochan (film)
name = Diaochan
Gu Lanjun Jin Shan
Xinhua Film Company
released = 1938
runtime = 87 min.
language = Mandarin
imdb_id = 0929419
"Diaochan" (zh-tsp|t=貂蟬|s=貂蝉|p=Diāochán) is a 1938 Chinese sound film directed by
Bu Wancangand produced by Zhang Shankun's Xinhua Film Company. The film is a portrayal of one of the " Four Beauties" of Ancient China, in this case the titular Diaochan, from the Three Kingdoms. Like Diaochan, the film is also known by the literal translation of her name, the "Sable Cicada".
The film, a lavish historical
costume dramarepresented something of a revival of Chinese filmmaking in Shanghaifollowing the occupation of the city by Japanese forces. Under the aegis of the Xinhua Film Company, "Diaochan"'s success allowed for significant output of wartime films from Chinese studios during the "Solitary Island" period of the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Gu Lanjunas Diaochan(credited as Violet Koo)
Jin Shanas Lü Bu
Gu Eryias Dong Zhuo
Wei Helingas Wang Yun
Tang Jieas Li Jue
Production of "Diaochan", a historical epic based on the life of one of the legendary
Four Beautiesof China, began in January 1937 under director Bu Wancangfor the Xinhua Film Company.Fu, p. 6] Originally the film was to be part of an ambitious plan to release a film based on each beauty: Diaochan, Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, and Yang Guifei, though only "Diaochan" was ever made. With 90% of shooting complete, however, the production was shut down with the outbreak of war with the Empire of Japan. As a result of Japanese bombing of Shanghai, nearly all the film sets were destroyed, and most of the cast fled to the country's interior.
With the reopening of the
Xinhua Film Companyin late 1937, the company found itself in the center of Shanghai's "Solitary Island." The company's head, Zhang Shankunannounced that despite the fact the film was incomplete (and Shanghai's film infrastructure in shambles), the release of "Diaochan" would relaunch Shanghai's "Hollywood of the East." Zhang therefore moved production to Hong Kong, renting the Nanyue Studioin Hong Kong)a far more expensive undertaking than filming in Shanghai), and flying most of the cast to Hong Kong from the interior, not to mention transporting equipment from Shanghai. [Fu, p. 6-7]
Using the Hong Kong studio (and Hong Kong extras), the production was completed in April of
1938. [Fu, p. 7]
Zhang invested heavily in the film's publicity in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, declaring the film as China's first big-budget historical epic. [Fu, p. 7] Zhang's gamble in the expensive production and publicity would soon pay off, as "Diaochan" became a commercial success in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, and was even screened in Shanghai's Grand Theater, which had heretofore been reserved for first-run American-made features. [Fu, p. 7-8]
Zhang then distributed the film to the United States, where it played mainly in the
Chinatowns of New York Cityand San Francisco. [Fu, p. 8]
More importantly, the film renewed the fortunes of Zhang Shankun's Xinhua Film Company, which was able to sign on important talent in Shanghai, [Fu, p. 8-10] which in turn would lead to the production of one of the most important and most successful films of the
Solitary Islandperiod, Bu Wancang's "Mulan Joins the Army".
* Fu, Poshek. "Between Shanghai and Hong Kong: The Politics of Chinese Cinemas". Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
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