Based on a novel by one of China’s most important novelists, Lao She, This Life of Mine is the story of “I” — he refers to himself in the first person throughout the story — a poor man who finds work as a Beijing policeman near the end of the imperial regime. Witnessing many of the major events of modern Chinese history the life of “I” is that of a simple, essentially decent man who would like to do good and see justice done, but who sees again and again how easily the rich and powerful are able to do what they like. At the heart of this remarkable film is director Shi Hui, who also plays the lead role. Shi brings an astonishing depth to his role, allowing us to feel not only his pain but also his persistent fear that he’ll eventually get caught on the wrong side of a struggle. Historical incidents are perceptively integrated with personal tragedies. Unquestionably one of the period’s major film artists, Shi Hui was denounced in the so-called “Anti-Rightist Campaign” of 1957; despondent, he took his own life. —Film Society of Lincoln Center
Shi Hui (1915–1957), born Shi Yutai, was a Chinese actor and film director who gained prominence throughout the 1940s through 1950s. Despite his fame, Shi became a victim of the Anti-Rightist Movement in the mid-1950s and committed suicide soon thereafter.
Shi’s career as an actor began relatively late. His first film was not until 1940’s The Chaotic World (dir. Wu Renzhi), and he would not gain broad recognition until after the war, with a series of classic films including Phony Phoenixes (dir. Huang Zuolin) and Long Live the Mistress (dir. Sang Hu).
After the Communist takeover, Shi became increasingly involved with the making of films behind the camera, directing himself in the classic This Life of Mine.1 Shi continued to direct throughout the early years of the 1950s, even gaining international attention with 1954’s Letter with Feather, which won a prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The next year, he filmed a stage performance of a Chinese Opera in The Heavenly… read more