Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon

China|1947|B&W|126 min|DCP|Mandarin|Chi subtitles
China Film Archive Collection, restored by REDSION Technology (Beijing) in 2011.
30.05.2020 (Sat) 19:30 BC

Dir & Scr: Shi Dongshan
Cinematographer: Han Zhongliang
Cast: Bai Yang, Tao Jin, Gao Zheng

This epic war drama begins at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and concludes at the early stage of the postwar era. In a decade of turmoil and struggle for China, young people must overcome the agony of an uncertain future as a young couple joins a resistance acting troupe in support of the war effort. Returning to Shanghai after the war, they discover the sobering reality of collusion between the government, the military and the bourgeoisie. Undaunted by injustice, they persist in their pursuit to expose these crimes, even though their righteousness will cost them dearly. Master filmmaker Shi Dongshan’s style is brooding and distinctive. The first half about the acting troupe is similar to the approach of neorealism, as the real-life war effort by the artistic community is commemorated here. The second half turns into a solemn social critique at a time when conflict and pressure mount in an increasingly bleak environment. Despite its obvious leftist ideology, the heartbreaking yet open ending is a sign of the filmmaker’s respect for each individual’s conscientious judgment. While sharing leading actors Bai Yang and Tao Jin with The Spring River Flows East (1947), another big hit of that year, this film features a broad historical perspective and maintains a more elegant style.

Shi Dongshan (1902-1955)
Shi began his career as director in China’s silent era, when he put much emphasis on the aesthetic quality of his films. In the 1930s, he stressed on realism and social commentary. His postwar releases, such as Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon and Sorrows of a Bride (1948), are unhackneyed, rigorous in style and structurally sound. After 1949, he adapted to the new environment and turned his attention to new themes. However, he committed suicide not long after being targeted by a Maoist movement against a literal scholar.