Monday, 13 May 2019

The Butterfly & The Teahouse | GFX50R

Hu Die (胡蝶) was one of the most popular Chinese actresses during the 1920s and 1930s. She starred in The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple, which started a craze for martial arts films, Sing-Song Girl Red Peony, China's first sound film, and what is considered her best film, Twin Sisters. She was voted China's first "Movie Queen" in 1933, and won the Best Actress Award at the 1960 Asian Film Festival for her performance in Rear Door.

Also known by her English name Butterfly Wu, she was a fervent nationalist and refused to work with the Japanese during their occupation of Shanghai. Hu Die and her husband Pan Yousheng fled to British Hong Kong at that time.

In December 1941, Hong Kong also fell to the Japanese. When the Japanese pressured her to make a war propaganda documentary film, she refused to become a collaborator, and secretly escaped to inland Chongqing, the war-time capital of the Republic of China resistance.

The photo film The Butterfly And The Teahouse encapsulates her early life until her return to Shanghai in 1945. I imagined that she would have been constantly on the move to evade the Japanese, and arranged for a photo shoot with Ms Ren Li Feng at the Qi Bao of the very few ancient (and virtually untouched) teahouse in the Shanghai area.

Hu Die retired in 1966, after a career spanning more than four decades. She emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1975 to join her son. She died on 23 April 1989.

The lovely soundtrack is a song by Zhou Xuan; an iconic Chinese singer and film actress. By the 1940s, she had become one of China's Seven Great Singing Stars. She was the best known of the seven, nicknamed the "Golden Voice", and had a concurrent movie career until 1954.