On The Society File Of Shanghai

 (Taiwan, 1981)
90 minutes, Digibeta, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Wang Chu-chin
Starring: Luk Siu-fan, Richard Cui, Pang Gwan-fai, Lee Hung-gwok

This is one of the key breakout films in the Taiwanese Black Movie cycle. Adapted from the scar literature of Mainland China (a late 70’s genre concerning political suffering under the Cultural Revolution), the movie is a politically charged film told mostly in flash backs about Li-fang (Luk Siu-fan) who is arrested after Hai-nan (Richard Cui), the son of an official, is stabbed in the street. The film then delves into the trauma of Li-fang as her physical and mental scars are revealed one by one during her interrogation.

Based on a book that was banned in the mainland, and infused with a serious political message, the producers and distributor were so enamored with Luk Siu-fan and her ability to stab herself while simultaneously showing off her assets, that they marketed the film around her sexiness. Unfortunately the poster where she looks like she just stepped out of the shower is nowhere to be found in this decidedly anti-communist look at the inner political workings of the Cultural Revolution and the women it destroyed. Launched into the public consciousness with this sexy image, Luk Siu-fan went on to star in many female revenge films such as The Lady Avenger and Exposed to Danger.

Gritty, straight forward, and concerned with how the state has betrayed the youths that drove the revolution forward, Wang Chu-chin’s film is perhaps one of the most social realist films of the Black Movie cycle. Hardly subtle, the political commentary is a bit on the nose, but this helps audiences not familiar with the intricacies of the political situation at the time. Well shot, well acted, and you can see why Liu Hsiao-fen was groomed for Black Movie stardom.

Part of Taiwan Pulp! – Tales of Gangsters, Female Avengers, and Ninjas!

Monday July 8, 1:30PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets