14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2002
Center Stage re-enacts the short life of Ruan Lingyu, who was arguably the cinematic queen in the 20's to 30's. The half-documentary film, with an unrivaled performance by Maggie Cheung, stirred the memory of the sensational silent film actress, whose films are rarely watched by the current generation of audience.
Ruan was a modern woman, yet still suffering from the weakness of her character, which eventually led to her suicide under the haunting of the malicious press. The man she loved betrayed her in distrust; her previous lover sold gossips to the press. She finally broke down in her no-exit fighting with "the mighty fear of the words" (from Ruan's will). Stanley Kwan and Maggie Cheung combined exquisitely in portraying the conflict between the stifling society and the rebellious yet weak character.
The movie chose to switch alternatively between the past and the present. With some footages of Ruan's films and interviews with the cast and relevant people in the present, it provides a contrast of the ways that we see things in different times, inspiring people to linger and rethink of their lives. A superb movie, in which Maggie Cheung and Ruan Lingyu, the two divas of their own days, meet across the time, flawlessly.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
I like the movie much better because of Maggie Cheung's performance. It goes back forth among old footages, interviews with the actors and the movie itself. It's sort of a documentary film played by real actors. And again, it's hard not to like the movie especially with Maggie Cheung flawless performance. Two scenes that just convince me how great she is: First was when she was trying to re-create the scene from an old movie where she was supposed to die in bed. The cameraman continued to shoot her even when the director already said "cut." What we are allowed to see was how affected Maggie was with the whole scene -- she was still crying when her scene was supposed to be over.
Another one was when she came back from meeting her ex-lover, who was trying to blackmail her. She came out of the house to a mob of people who were ready to scold her because of the rumor that was spread by her ex-lover. One of the people made a cruel remark about her mother and she turned around and looked at that person with so much pain -- you would feel that the remark was made to you.
Maggie Cheung usually shines even more when she doesn't say a word. Her best performances are always the ones where she conveys her feelings through her expressions.
Highly recommended, if only to see one the greatest performance in a movie! I believe she won a best actress award in Berlin festival. Wonder when American audiences would finally find her.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2005
I remember watching this film at the cinema more than ten years ago, and I was sobbing by the end of the film, because I was so moved by the life of Yun Ling Yuk, and the mesmerizing performance from Maggie(Cheung Man Yuk). This is no doubt Maggie's most memorable role of her career, despite the fact that she's better known for other films such as In The Mood For Love and Hero. This is the only film that allowed her to deliver "her all" as far as showing her range, and won her the Berlin Best Actress and numerous other awards in Asia! It's the ultimate art house biopic event that is absolutely inspirational, visually stunning, and emotionally impacting!
This biopic chronicles the life and suicide of China's first legendary silent film diva in the 1930's. Yun Link Yuk had starred in 29 films since the age of 16, and committed suicide at the age of 25 on international women's day(3-8-1935). She was a provocative public figure, because she played daring roles in films, and her forbidden love affair with a still married rich man gave her bad reputation. She broke the rules of society and was on a league of her own, which ultimately made her a victim of condemnation from the public and media. Even though she was the most popular star of her time, her life had become unbearable as as result of the torment she had to endured. She decided to leave her old mother and adopted daughter behind when she couldn't take it anymore, and overdosed on pills.
Carina Lau played Lily Lai, a rising star who worked with Yuk in a film about the Japanese intrusion, and they played mother and daughter. Carina nailed the reenactment of a scene from the original's film's footage perfectly. In the beginning, there was a few interviews on the now elderly Lily, Carina, and Maggie. Maggie said that Yun Ling Yuk died at the top of her career, and remained as the most glorious and striking star, and that she can not compare herself to her. As for Carina, she jokingly said,"I wouldn't mind if by the time I am 70, I will be remembered on the top 100 list!" Lily mentioned about the day of the burial, and that Little Yuk(Yuk's adopted daughter) asked her why she wasn't crying....
Tony Leung Kar Fai(The Lover) also costarred as the "Pink Director" who cast Yuk in a provocative film, and he was secretly in love with her. Ching Hai is brilliant as the wealthy womanizer whom Yuk fell in love with, and he financially helped her get rid of her money greedy gambling addicted boyfriend.
There is numerous reenactments of the some of Yun Ling Yuk's best works. The one scene when Maggied was hustled by a demented man in a film about a prostitute was amazing. The way she walked, smoked her cigarette as she stared at him totally matched the original film's footage. Then there is the scene when she had to do a dying scene, and she lost control of herself, and kept on crying under the blankets when the scene was finished.
The art direction and soundtrack is fabulous. I really enjoyed the ballroom dancing scene. Maggied Cheung had to shave her eye brows so that she could draw her brows like that era's, and her kapo dresses were so gorgeous! The theme song "Burial of the Heart" heard at the closing credit is very sad and beautiful. I enjoyed this film more than other Stanley Kwan movies include Lan Yu and Red Rose and White Rose.
on September 8, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
A masterpiece of Biopic style narratives. It includes a wonderful performance by Maggie Cheung. Actually, she looks masterfully beautiful!
1 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2004
This film took me two weeks to watch. I had begun this film , but found myself so bored with the story that it couldn`t keep my interest. In fact, last night when I finally finished the film, I had to keep myself awake by pulling at my hairs on my head to keep me from dozing during this documentary.
I call it a documentary, but it is actually a representation of her life as an actress played by modern actresses. It is similar to the film JFK with several actors playing the part of actual people with clips of the event sewn throughout the film. This was quite possibly the dullest film ever made. I am surprised that it won any awards, much less sweeping the Hong Kong Film Festival. The characters were one-dimensional. They had no spirit, no soul, no care only to walk around in period piece costumes. Everyone in this movie is exceedingly composed - they speak carefully, and walk perpetually as if on eggshells. No one really comes alive until a scene at a dance hall near the end.
But despite all the sugary politeness, Cheung successfully conveys a woman who is being slowly destroyed by her oppressive environment. There are a couple scenes in which she completely loses it, and it's very affecting to watch, but not worth two hours of my time. I had trouble understanding this film. There was a rumor that when it was released at the film festival in 1992, it was accidentally shown out of order, yet it still won the praise of critics. That doesn't make any sense to me. How can a film be out of sequence, yet still being considered the best out there? There was times that I felt I was watching a PBS special, but a very poorly done special.
If a person from the streets were to come up to me and ask me what my favorite part of this film to me would be, I would have no answer. I did not like one portion of this film. The characters were dull, the story was tough to follow, and the pacing was completely off. Nothing made sense in this film. No acting actually occurred in this film. This was one of my first experiences with Hong Kong cinema, and I think I perhaps started on the wrong foot. I am looking forward to my next film from Hong Kong, because it can only be better than this. Even if it only showed growing grass for an hour and a half, it would be better. Perhaps I am being too negative about this film, but I just couldn't get into it.
Sorry Hong Kong!
Grade: * out of *****