Film: 8991

Dance | 1950 | Sound | Colour


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Opens with a painting of a crowd and focuses to a building in the background - the Chinese theatre. The narrator explains how Chinese theatre is the focus of entertainment and culture in China.
Cuts to actors (soldiers) on a Chinese stage. The soldiers move off-stage to allow the principal actors to enter. They move to form a tableaux. Each character is familiar to the audience, they are recognizable by their different make-up and costume. An introduction to each is given by showing each character. The general is signified by banners protruding from the back of his costume, the princess wears gold and the faces of traitors are blotched with white make-up. The monkey king wears red make-up, symbolizing audacity. His character is a blend of Adam and Prometheus, both taking what has been forbidden. The monkey king snatches at fruit greedily. A character with a long red beard denotes a villain and a long white beard indicates wisdom and experience. An unpainted face means a quiet unoffending character. Each character makes a facial or physical gesture as it appears.
Cuts to the action of a play [Soucien?], a character without paint, has fallen in love with the white fairy but because of a misunderstanding she and her attendant (an actress dressed in blue) believe him to have been unfaithful. They perform a dance as the attendant tries to run him through with the sword she is brandishing. The white fairy intervenes. Her grief is symbolized by intricate hand gestures and she sings of her sadness. Her attendant comforts her. The scene ends.
The monkey king has stolen some fruit and the gods have discovered his crime. The inhabitants of the Chinese Olympus join forces to punish him. The Jade Emperor, the Nine Planets, the Twelve Hours, the God of the Far Eastern region, the Signs of the Zodiac and the immortal [Lao Tzu?] all do battle with the monkey king using long poles. The monkey king outwits each one performing acrobatics and a slapstick fight follows. The king effortlessly fights off one attacker who later returns with the Jade Emperor behind him. The king tricks him into laying down his weapons and they engage in a hand fight, swinging each other around in dance. The Jade Emperor knocks him to the ground and ties a rope around his neck. The king surreptitiously ties the other end around the Emperor's foot, and cuts the noose around his own neck with a hair from his head. He pulls the rope knocking the Emperor to the ground and chases him off-stage. He comes back laughing victoriously but the Emperor has called the soldiers, they come on stage brandishing swords and form a circle around the monkey king. The king does battle with them all and fends them off. The actors tumble and perform synchronized acrobatics around the stage. The monkey king defeats them and performs a celebratory dance by twirling a pole at great speed around the stage. His subjects join him on stage bearing a large banner and they celebrate the victory of humanity over the gods by performing tumbling acrobatics. They finish by gathering around the monkey king.
An actor (a knight) holding a candle is on-stage. Although it is brightly lit he pretends that the room is dark. Imagination is central to Chinese theatre. Similarly he uses the table as a bed, the knight settles down after a hard day. The inn-keeper enters the 'darkened' room, he is unaware of the knight's presence. He stumbles across the knight on the table. Feeling his way along the table he finds the knight's sword and takes it. The knight wakes up and gets off the table. Neither one can see the other. The innkeeper searches for the body but the knight has gone. The innkeeper lashes out with the sword and the noise attracts the knight's attention. They accidentally touch each other in the darkness and the knight jumps in fright onto the table, he crouches behind the innkeeper who now sits on the edge of the table directly in front of him. He checks the area in front of him with the sword. They both get off the table avoiding each other. They feel in front of them and their hands meet, the knight jumps back onto the table narrowly missing the innkeeper's sword. They resume their positions on the table still blindly feeling all around them. The knight touches the innkeeper's face, the innkeeper gets off the table and faces the knight. They are now facing each other nose to nose. They become aware of each other and the knight cartwheels off the table as the innkeeper tries to hit him. A fight ensues as they turn around the stage, the knight barely missing the two swords that the innkeeper brandishes. They arrive face to face, the knight holds the innkeeper's wrists, they wrestle and the knight gains control of one of the swords. They continue around the room occasionally missing and hitting each other until they finally engage in a more acrobatic fight and both swords are thrown off-stage. They continue to fight without swords. They both lift the table at the same time and realise they are at opposite ends. They both drop it and it lands on the foot of the innkeeper. He holds one foot in his hands while he quickly hops in and out of the bent leg. He finally tumbles over and the scene ends.
A young woman is separated from her mother by a river, she calls the boatman to cross it. A white-bearded man enters miming the motion of poling across the river. He decides he will tease the young woman. He jumps ashore and ties up the imaginary boat. He jumps back to the boat and extends the boat paddle to the young woman so she can get aboard. She nearly falls. He pushes the boat out with great effort, they both mime the motion of being in a boat. He pretends the boat is stuck, he gets into the water to try and release it but then remember that it is still tied up. He unties it and pushes off with great exaggeration. As the boat is meant to turn around so do the two actors. She sings a she paddles and they both mime the motion of travelling along the river.

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