A central pillar of politically progressive Chinese cinema, director Sun Yu addresses the urban-rural divide, inner-city squalor, and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in Wild Rose. A love story that bridges social class, the film explores the strictures that bind its central couple, Xiao Feng and Jiang Bo. Xiao, a strong-willed, disobedient village girl, captivates Jiang, a wealthy painter from Shanghai. After Jiang attempts to introduce Xiao to his family with mixed results, the couple are cut off, forced to eke out a meager living in a Shanghai slum, and later compelled to separate. Amidst the couple’s love story, the specter of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria looms large, and ultimately determines the couple’s destiny. Wild Rose foreshadows much of Sun Yu’s later career, with its themes of classism and commitment to a national cause. Acclaimed for bringing a previously unknown level of artistry and dramatic cohesion to the filmmaking community of the time, Wild Rose is technically first-rate and an important example of Chinese silent cinema. —2009 Seattle International Film Festival
Sun Yu was born on March 21, 1900 in Chongqing (Chungking), Sichuan province, to an intellectual family which valued education highly. Sun’s father, who had been a successful scholar at the provincial level during the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, was a historical researcher who traveled around China, and as a boy Sun Yu often went along, which added considerably to the future filmmaker’s experience and knowledge. The family later moved to Shanghai, where Sun Yu saw his first movie in a theater.
After graduating from middle school, Sun Yu passed the entrance exams for admission to Qinghua University, where movies and poetry became his twin passions. In his third year, he entered a film reviewing competition and won the grand prize. Among the judges in the competition were future Chinese film directors Zhu Shilin and Fei Mu, while the chair of the panel was Luo Mingyou, who as the head of the Lianhua (United Photoplay Service) Film Company would one day rewrite the history of Chinese… read more