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Maggie Cheung became an instant star playing silent screen legend Ruan Lingyu in Hong Kong Second Wave master Stanley Kwan's elegant meta-modernist biopic.
The most important actress of prewar Chinese cinema, the tragically short-lived Ruan Lingyu took her own life at the age of twenty-four after she was savagely attacked by the press over an adultery scandal, but her extraordinary legacy continues to be a significant source of inspiration for Chinese artists. Director Stanley Kwan, famous for his lush period films, paid Ruan her greatest cinematic tribute with this exceptionally innovative biopic, and created a new screen icon in the process: Maggie Cheung, whose performance won her the prize for best actress at the Berlin Film Festival and launched her as a massive global star. An elegant and complex blend of fiction and non-fiction, Center Stage alternates between exquisitely detailed recreations of key moments from Ruan's life, clips from her films, and charming on-camera conversations between Kwan and Cheung about Ruan. Celebrated in much academic and critical writing as a key text about the status of women in twentieth-century cinema, Center Stage is above all a heartfelt and achingly beautiful testament to one of the true legends of the cinema. "A masterpiece ... the greatest Hong Kong film I've seen" (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader); "tender, vivid and almost overwhelmingly moving" (Tony Rayns, Time Out London).