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Woman, Demon, Human人鬼情 ~ Chinese Movies&TV

“Woman, Demon, Human” is a film you probably haven’t heard of. Released in 1987, it was largely ignored by critics busy fawning over the emergence of some of China’s biggest film talents: Chen Kaige released the classic “Yellow Earth” in 1984 with Zhang Yimou as his cinematographer, then Zhang Yimou went on to release his directorial debut “Red Sorghum” in 1987, which was also the debut of superstar actress Gong Li.

Especially in foreign circles, everyone was talking about the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, the first class to graduate from the Beijing Film Academy after a tumultuous period in China’s history. Not many people were talking about Huang Shuqin, a director who had graduated from the Academy right before it (even though much of her best work comes from the 1980s).

“Woman, Demon, Human” — called 人鬼情 Rén Guǐ Qíng in Chinese — doesn’t have the visual beauty that marks Zhang Yimou’s early films. Huang’s plot is largely psychological, raising questions about identity and gender through the story of a young girl named 秋芸 Qiū Yún who becomes an opera performer. Like her father, she specializes in playing Zhong Kui, a male ghost, perhaps in part because a close bond with her father after her mother abandoned the family to run off with another man. The film begins with a shot of the Qiu Yun as an adult, applying makeup in front of a confusing array of mirrors. In some of the mirrors, she appears fully made up as the male Zhong Kui, in others, she’s quite obviously an adult woman.

Her story is then told through flashbacks to her childhood and early adulthood, interspersed with dreamworld sequences where Zhong Kui dances and fights demons on an ethereal stage. Qiu Yun becomes increasingly confused about her identity as her onstage “male” persona begins to bleed into her offstage “female” life. This is further complicated by her relationship with her parents; her father wants only the best for her, but she cannot bare to leave him alone, even though it would greatly benefit her career.

The film touches on more–much more–than I can cover here, so I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. It’s a fascinating film that bends reality and raises questions about gender and identity that aren’t often addressed in mainstream Chinese films.

If you don’t need subtitles (in English or Chinese) you can find it here; otherwise, you may need to head to your local DVD retailer. Just be sure you get the name right, or you might end up with the 1990 Patrick Swayze film “Ghost.” The two films have very similar names in Chinese.

未经允许不得转载:STUDY IN CHINA GLOBAL (SCG) » Woman, Demon, Human人鬼情 ~ Chinese Movies&TV
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