My Memories of Old Beijing, a feature film based on Lin Haiyin’s novel of the same title and directed by Wu Yigong in 1982, is called a prose-like film for its unique artistic pursuit. The film shows the society and the miserable life of the people in the 1920s in Beijing through the eyes of a naive girl. The film is uniquely arranged. Instead of organizing the plot with a beginning, development, climax and conclusion, it features a keynote of sorrows and yearning for the past and a string-styled plot that links three separate stories. Like a multi-faceted mirror, it reflects the historical scenes from different angles. The film goes like this:
More than half a century ago, Lin Yingzi came to Beijing from Taiwan with his parents. They lived in a lane in the southern part of the city. As a little girl from south of China, Lin Yingzi is curious about everything here: dilapidated city walls of the ancient capital, ringing bells on a camel’s neck, busy streets and side lanes…. The mad woman at the door of a guildhall, her playmate Niuer who was mal-treated, the thief hiding himself in a deserted courtyard, Amah Song who was a wet nurse in her family and her loving father who was seriously ill and died in the end… All these people had either played, talked, laughed or lived with her. However, in one way or the other they had quietly left her one by one. Now they only live in her memory. Why is the world full of miseries? The naive girl Yingzi thinks hard but cannot find the answer. It is over fifty years since then, Yingzi is an old woman now. Though far away from Beijing, she never forgets this period in her life. Her heart is heavy, and she is homesick again.
The film has its content centering on the characters’ psychology and supplemented with music; an artistic form of expression featuring a gentle rhythm, symbolism, implication, comparison, and repetition; and a tranquil, concise conception similar to a Chinese wash drawing. In 1983, the film won the Best Director Prize at the Third Golden Rooster Awards and the Best Feature Film Golden Eagle Prize at the Manila International Film Festival. —china.org.cn
A noted mainland director of the 1980s, Wu Yigong (b. 1 December 1938, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province) graduated from the Directing Department of Beijing Film Academy (BFA) in 1960 and was assigned to Haiyan Film Studio in Shanghai. He worked as assistant director on a number of productions. Night Rain on the River (co-dir. Wu Yonggang, 1980), which won Best Film at 1981 China Golden Rooster Awards (GRA), placed Wu’s name in the public spotlight. His solo feature, My Memories of Old Beijing (1982), which won Best Director award at 1983 China GRA as well as the Golden Eagle at the second FF held in Manila, further consolidated Wu’s reputation as one of the most talented directors of the 1980s. Like many directors of his generation who also hold administrative positions (e.g., Wu Tianming, Xie Fei), Wu does not direct films on a year-by-year basis. His The Descendants of Confucius (1992) was awarded Best Director and Best Film prizes by Ministry of Broadcasting, Film and Television (MBFT… read more