Story of a mother and daughter, from the country, who try to earn a living in Shanghai by hand-crafting beautiful, traditional toys. They are faced with competition from manufacturers and then the war with Japan begins.
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Toys are simultaneously objects directly used as an expression of China's industrial underdevelopment, that actuality introduces an ironic historical review, and a metaphor-representation of war, through analogies of an extraordinary visual richness. The final sequence, equivalent to Abel Gance's J'Accuse, show, if such were needed, that Ruan Lingyu only find in Louise Brooks the actress that could equate her.