Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Fresh from a broken marriage, Wei Ming moves to Shanghai where she becomes a music teacher and writer. Wei manages to get her book published through a friend, but it quickly transpires that the publisher is only interested in Wei’s status as a young woman. Additionally, Dr. Wang, the headmaster of the school where Wei works and the husband of her friend, takes a shining to his new employee, but fires her when she spurns his advances. Destitute and needing to support her ill daughter, Wei reluctantly becomes a prostitute, and when she discovers who her first client is, her burning shame leads her to new lows.

Partly based on the tragic life of actress and writer Ai Xia, New Woman is typical of the golden period films in its portrayal of the lower classes in Shanghai, but there is something unusual in its revelation of the facts. Though not immediately obvious, the film is a commentary on the semi-reality created by the world of cinema – Wei, substituting for Ai Xia, is taken for a ride by the promise of success, when it is only her image and sexuality that is desired. In a sinister twist of life imitating art, lead actress Ruan Lingyu, a prolific star at the time, committed suicide not too long after the release of the film, tired by the constant vigil of the press. With some bizarrely shot sequences and a disturbingly heartfelt performance by Ruan, New Woman is an unforgettably dark slice of cinema.

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