Center Stage Reviews

  • Jun 01, 2016

    Maggie Cheung plays silent screen actress Ruan Ling-Yu, who was China's biggest movie star in the 1930s until she committed suicide in 1935. This was Maggie's break-out role and she went on to become an international star after winning the best actress role in Berlin. She appears in every scene and as a result, her character is the only fully delineated one in the film, probably intentionally. Director Stanley Kwan uses an impressionistic strategy to triangulate the viewpoints on Ruan - the re-enactments of her life and films by Cheung and the cast, clips of Ruan's actual films in grainy black and white, and occasionally, discussions between Cheung and Kwan himself along with surviving Chinese actors about the real Ruan. Unfortunately, I saw a cut version (121 minutes) which may have skimped on some of the latter experimental aspects, sadly. The film's art direction is sumptuous, with an intense use of patterns (bold Chinese dresses in front of mismatched wallpaper somehow works a charm due to the colours chosen). Ruan's life was not a happy one due to her problematic relationships with a exploitative gambler and a supportive but married older man and a battle with the tabloid press seems to have ended her will to live.

    Maggie Cheung plays silent screen actress Ruan Ling-Yu, who was China's biggest movie star in the 1930s until she committed suicide in 1935. This was Maggie's break-out role and she went on to become an international star after winning the best actress role in Berlin. She appears in every scene and as a result, her character is the only fully delineated one in the film, probably intentionally. Director Stanley Kwan uses an impressionistic strategy to triangulate the viewpoints on Ruan - the re-enactments of her life and films by Cheung and the cast, clips of Ruan's actual films in grainy black and white, and occasionally, discussions between Cheung and Kwan himself along with surviving Chinese actors about the real Ruan. Unfortunately, I saw a cut version (121 minutes) which may have skimped on some of the latter experimental aspects, sadly. The film's art direction is sumptuous, with an intense use of patterns (bold Chinese dresses in front of mismatched wallpaper somehow works a charm due to the colours chosen). Ruan's life was not a happy one due to her problematic relationships with a exploitative gambler and a supportive but married older man and a battle with the tabloid press seems to have ended her will to live.

  • Jan 14, 2016

    Ruan Ling Yu is a heartfelt, often sorrowful film that tells the short-lived yet legendary life of a young Chinese movie star both on and off the scene.

    Ruan Ling Yu is a heartfelt, often sorrowful film that tells the short-lived yet legendary life of a young Chinese movie star both on and off the scene.

  • Aug 01, 2014

    The other day, I stumbled upon a heartbreaking "trivia": during the filming of Imitation of Life, as Mahalia Jackson appeared to sing an acapella of Trouble of the World, Lana Turner actually broke down and ran out of the film set. Amazingly, this is what Centre Stage is all about: the intricate intersection between life and art and the tragic predicaments of female movie stars. This IS imitation of life, and not since mentioned Sirk's film, have I actually shed tear at a movie. I can't say that the editing pleases me entirely (some of the parts are too meandering), but the film manages to strike powerful emotional notes through its sincerity. I consider this, along with Campion's The Portrait of a Lady, to be the most important post-feminist works that ever grace cinema.

    The other day, I stumbled upon a heartbreaking "trivia": during the filming of Imitation of Life, as Mahalia Jackson appeared to sing an acapella of Trouble of the World, Lana Turner actually broke down and ran out of the film set. Amazingly, this is what Centre Stage is all about: the intricate intersection between life and art and the tragic predicaments of female movie stars. This IS imitation of life, and not since mentioned Sirk's film, have I actually shed tear at a movie. I can't say that the editing pleases me entirely (some of the parts are too meandering), but the film manages to strike powerful emotional notes through its sincerity. I consider this, along with Campion's The Portrait of a Lady, to be the most important post-feminist works that ever grace cinema.

  • Oct 13, 2013

    Believe it or not, I had never watched this film (neither in cinema, VHS, VCD, LD, DVD, nor on TV) until tonight! "Centre Stage" was arguably the most significant piece in Maggie Cheung (as Yuen Ling Yuk, the protagonist)'s career. It was a watershed how people recognize her as an 'actress' transformed from a movie star. The film was undoubtedly an ambitious project directed by Stanley Kwan. Apart from its fictional part, the film is also a mixture of documentary & behind-the-scene footage. It is an hard-to-take avant-garde even for today's standard. It maybe an good Art House example in the history of HK Cinema. It is however way too overlong, trivial & too much to say at the same time.

    Believe it or not, I had never watched this film (neither in cinema, VHS, VCD, LD, DVD, nor on TV) until tonight! "Centre Stage" was arguably the most significant piece in Maggie Cheung (as Yuen Ling Yuk, the protagonist)'s career. It was a watershed how people recognize her as an 'actress' transformed from a movie star. The film was undoubtedly an ambitious project directed by Stanley Kwan. Apart from its fictional part, the film is also a mixture of documentary & behind-the-scene footage. It is an hard-to-take avant-garde even for today's standard. It maybe an good Art House example in the history of HK Cinema. It is however way too overlong, trivial & too much to say at the same time.

  • Jun 15, 2013

    ploddingly slow unless you're a maggie and/or ruan ling-yu fan. the director's cut features crew interviews and archival footage. and cheung is truly tested acting as an actress who is an actress. talk about your layers lol.

    ploddingly slow unless you're a maggie and/or ruan ling-yu fan. the director's cut features crew interviews and archival footage. and cheung is truly tested acting as an actress who is an actress. talk about your layers lol.

  • Jul 29, 2012

    An interestingly filmed biography which is half-drama, half-documentary. Maggie Cheung is a revelation, although Carina Lau looks more like Ruan Ling Yu than Maggie.

    An interestingly filmed biography which is half-drama, half-documentary. Maggie Cheung is a revelation, although Carina Lau looks more like Ruan Ling Yu than Maggie.

  • Nov 05, 2011

    I always like 1930s Shanghai, like the setting of movie Lust Cautions. This is one of Maggie Cheung's best movie. Probably because she felt deeply to the character and can connect to her. She is acting both Yuen Ling Yuk but also herself in this movie. The only thing is that I think she should show more passion to the 3 male leads - their relationship should be more intense and to causes the decision of suicide. Anyhow she's good at portraying the "new modern" female in 1930s. (Amazing how independent they were at that age.) Last but not least, it was ground breaking for the director to use the documentary storytelling to shoot this movie, especially it's 1992 in Hong Kong!

    I always like 1930s Shanghai, like the setting of movie Lust Cautions. This is one of Maggie Cheung's best movie. Probably because she felt deeply to the character and can connect to her. She is acting both Yuen Ling Yuk but also herself in this movie. The only thing is that I think she should show more passion to the 3 male leads - their relationship should be more intense and to causes the decision of suicide. Anyhow she's good at portraying the "new modern" female in 1930s. (Amazing how independent they were at that age.) Last but not least, it was ground breaking for the director to use the documentary storytelling to shoot this movie, especially it's 1992 in Hong Kong!

  • May 25, 2011

    I like the structure of the film, including actual footage of the film's subject, and interviews with the cast. A little different.

    I like the structure of the film, including actual footage of the film's subject, and interviews with the cast. A little different.

  • Feb 22, 2011

    Great Film And Nice Spin On The Biopic.

    Great Film And Nice Spin On The Biopic.

  • Jan 17, 2011

    One of the crown jewels in Maggie Cheung's storied career. THIS is the epitome of a real woman who can command the screen every last second she is on it.

    One of the crown jewels in Maggie Cheung's storied career. THIS is the epitome of a real woman who can command the screen every last second she is on it.