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江山美人 (1959)
The Kingdom and the Beauty

Reviewed by: ororama
Date: 02/09/2010

The bored young Emperor slips out of the court with a soldier on leave to visit a southern village. He sees a beautiful young woman in a spring parade and decides to pursue her. This wine shop waitress is receptive to his advances, after initial resistance required by her sense of propriety, but things become complicated when she learns who he is and his mother learns what he has been doing.

Beautiful Lin Dai shines as the young woman who risks her reputation for the sake of love. Zhao Lei convincingly portrays the Emperor, who seems sincere, charming and handsome, but proves capricious, fickle and weak. King Hu is amusing as a wine shop employee who seems to have an unrequited romantic interest in his beautiful co-worker, and who devises an ingenious method to get word of her plight to the Emperor.

The subject matter of the opera, a nobleman incognito on holiday romancing a commoner, is also a popular subject for European operettas. The approach here is realistic, with no fantasy of romance triumphing over class boundaries. The commoners understand their place, and the Emperor is informed that he is not permitted to change the rules.

The music and singing is pleasant, and is presented in a natural way to advance the story. The beautiful, clearly artificial sets of the court, where the story begins, mirror the artifice of the life of the court.

The Kingdom and the Beauty is a well-made movie that entertains although it does not surprise. It ably presents the brilliant beauty and sweet spirit of Lin Dai.

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 12/15/2002

This film was taken from a Chinese legend called “The Wandering Dragon Seduces the Phoenix”. An Emperor (Chao Lei) sets out for the luscious countryside in Kiang Nan to see the beautiful backdrops. Outside the cozy confines of the palace, the Emperor meets a beautiful maiden named Li Feng (Lin Dai) and falls in love with her. The Emperor is then summoned back to the Palace by his Empress mother (Tang Re Ching), and upon leaving, he promises the lovely Li Feng that in a short time he would bring her back to the palace and never forget about her. Promises, promises, not to mention a Mother who will not break from tradition. Anyways, time flies by and of course, the Emperor has forgotten about Li Feng. Li Feng has even given birth to a child from the Emperor! Whoa! Will the Emperor accept responsibility for both Li Feng and the child? Eventually, he does, but before doing so, Li Feng becomes sick with depression and is on the verge of death. She then leaves for the Capital and eventually arrives at the Palace after a long journey. Joy and happiness reigns supreme, but when the Emperor opens up the entrance to the sedan chair, he is shocked and filled with grief. You would think that the story would end on a happy note, eh? Nope. A definite Huang Mei opera classic.