Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The movements of Qi Pao

She lifted up her Qi Pao a little, squatted down quietly. Her curvy back is seen through the camera from a stepped-back angle. A lady could squat in Qi Pao while still holding her elegance, more than any other pose.  While shooting “New Woman” (新女性), Ruan Ling Yu squats with the director Cai Chu Sheng (蔡楚生) and discusses the character she plays, another actress Wei Ming. Although the director explains how peasants are used to squatting and getting whipped from the back, Ruan Ling Yu remembers herself squatting by her mom resting, before she became a movie star.

“Centre stage”(阮玲玉) (1910-1935) shows in parallel the footage of Ruan's silent films and Maggie Cheung’s impersonation of Ruan. Without sound, Ruan plays the character with her body emotion, in Qi Pao. Her character in “The Goddess”  (神女) has her son teach her to exercise, fall to the floor laughing together.  She sits on the table, crosses her leg and blows out cigarette smoke. Who could imagine Qi Pao could be so fun and rebellious?

The scene of nostalgic and sepia Qi Pao in the silent movies, played by Ruan Ling Yu flashforwards to the scene of attractive and colorful Qi Pao that Ruan dances in, played by Maggie Cheung. This movie in movie and mix of shifts is baffling but the continuity of the charm of Qi Pao could not be more unambiguous.

Singing "Blue Angel", Ruan sometimes impersonates Marlene Dietrich. Ruan didn’t live to see many sound films. The plot and dialogue of her silent films is printed in words on the screen. But the depressed characters, the rebellious characters and the modern characters she played didn’t need much explanation with her movements of Qi Pao.


  1. I always think only Chinese women have that attitude and curve to pull off Qi Pao. ;-)

  2. hehe, Maggie Cheung really had the attitude and curve :)

  3. I think Maggie is the one who pulled it off the best ever.