Romance of the Western Chamber [西廂記] (1927)
AKA Way Down West
Starring Lin Chu-Chu, Ge Cijiang, Li Dandan, Li Huamin, He Minzhuang
Directed by Hou Yao
Expectations: None really, but I’m very interested.
Romance of the Western Chamber is by far the earliest Chinese film I’ve seen, and if it is any indication of the country’s early film output, I wish more films were available. It’s not so much that I loved Romance of the Western Chamber as it is that I was intrigued by it. The film is ostensibly a drama, but the introduction of the villain leads to a couple of martial arts battles, one of which is inside of a dream sequence full of fantasy. According to this write-up, Hou Yau was an acclaimed director in his day, as well as the first Chinese director to utilize special effects. If he only knew what his work would eventually lead to within Chinese cinema!
Chang Kung (Ge Cijiang), a young scholar, comes to stay at a temple on his way to taking the imperial exams. Also staying there is Cui Ying Ying (Lin Chu-Chu), the beautiful daughter of the late Prime Minister, and her mother. As soon as Chang Kung catches sight of Cui Ying Ying he’s hopelessly smitten. His studies suffer as all he can focus on is how to see her again, even resorting to eavesdropping on her conversations and climbing atop a roof to steal a glance.