Fei Mu’s groundbreaking first sound film is an eloquent study in filial piety about a son whose move to the city and efforts to honor his parents are overshadowed by urban temptations and a shrewish wife. Believed to be the earliest surviving film from Fei Mu’s work as a director, the fluidly shot Song of China shows the filmmaker making a pioneering use of Chinese music while telling a story solidly grounded in traditional Confucian morals. (Luo Mingyou & Fei Mu, 1935, China; 45m)
On Stage and Backstage
Zhou Yihua, 1937, China; 29m
Fei Mu wrote the screenplay for this charming backstage comedy, shot during casting problems on the production of his own Murder in the Oratory (with the same set and costumes!). When the top diva of an opera troupe storms off after not getting money upfront from their manager, a common street performer comes in to replace her. The opera-Farewell My Concubine. Fei Mu’s intimate knowledge of Peking opera—and the echo with this film’s own reason for being—make for delightful comedy, as the title promises, both onstage and backstage.