Lost Chinese classics to be screened in Shanghai

The first Chinese film to be dubbed in English and screened in Europe and the US after the World War II is making its way back home courtesy of a film institute based in Paris.

The Centre de documentation et de recherche sur le cinema chinois, or CDCC Paris, a French institute dedicated to collecting Chinese films, is bringing eight classic Chinese films from 1940 to 1951 that featured popular Shanghai stars from the era. It includes the only copy of a hit 1947 comedy.

The films will be screened at Shanghai Film Museum and Shanghai Film Archive until December 20.

The hit comedy, “The Barber Takes a Wife,” which starred two well-known actors of the time, Shi Hui and Li Lihua, was the first Chinese film that was shown in the theaters in Europe and the US after the World War II. More importantly, the film featured a soundtrack in English recorded by Chinese.

“The copy we have was apparently recorded in a movie theater in the 50s. Some of the details are not perfect but we are lucky that we can still see the film 60 years later,” Marie-Claire Kuo, the head of CDCC, told Xinhua news agency.

“To rescue these old films is a race against time. This is a rare opportunity for film researchers to watch the film that we had read about in books for decades,” said Shi Chuan, deputy chairman of the Shanghai Film Association.

Among the other films are “The Romance of West Chamber,” a costume-drama starring Zhou Xuan, a Shanghai star, and “Yan Yang Tian” (literally “A Sunny Day”). Yan Yang Tian was the only film directed by Cao Yu, a famous Chinese playwright who is best known for his play “Thunderstorm.”

“The films don’t have either English or Chinese subtitles because the original reels are dated and have not been restored,” said Fan Yirong, Executive Curator of Shanghai Film Museum.

The screenings are part of a project to mark the 110th year of the birth of Chinese cinema. The first Chinese film was “Ding Jun Shan” that was released in 1905. Shanghai played a prominent role in the development of China’s film industry in the formative years.

Fan said the museum has been making concerted efforts in the past three years to bring home old Chinese films that are in the hands of overseas parties.

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