The annual Beijing International Film Festival opens Saturday, but the screenings have already started. China’s earliest martial arts film was shown at the China Film Archive in downtown Beijing. Movie buffs got a glimpse of the country’s first martial arts movie, produced nearly ninety years ago.
The Red Errant Knight is a silent film released in 1927. It traces the story of a girl’s revenge at the turn of the 20th century.
Yun Gu’s grandmother was killed by a gang leader who wanted Yun Gu as his concubine. Yun Gu was saved by a kung fu master who taught her his art. After studying for three years, Yun Gu went for revenge.
She killed the evil gang leader and saved a father and daughter who had also suffered at his hands.
“It was shot nearly 90 years ago. But the idea was quite advanced. Now in many martial arts films, you see warriors tap the ground with the tip of their foot, and fly onto the rooftop,” said Sha Dan, Curator, Films in Panorama, BJ Film Festival.
“Some transform into a thread of smoke to move into another place. Such ways of expressing martial arts were used in movies like this.”
Restoration of the film was completed by the China Film Archive last year. Japanese improvisational guitarist Otomo Yoshihide composed and performs the accompanying music. Viewers say despite the lack of dialogue and narration, the drama is rather strong, considering the time it was produced.
“Compared to some other silent films I’ve watched, which were very simple in plot, this film has got the structure and plotline of a modern film. It delivers themes like revenge and little figures unable to determine their own fate,” one audience member said.
“Film in Panorama” is a major segment of Beijing Film Festival. It will screen more than 300 films, classics from both China and abroad, in cinemas, until the festival closes April 23.
The China Film Archive will screen some other early Chinese films, including some featuring 1930’s film mega star Ruan Lingyu. Silent films will be accompanied by live music or on-the-spot narration.
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