Borderland Legend, Carnival Fetes and Cinematic Opera

Respectively (1) through the biopic cum “offstage musical” format, which inquires into (fictionalizes about) the always urban drama behind the drama: the history and mystery of the production process. (Amadeus!!!~). The recording thereby de-neutralized (given life as a multiple narrator) by the tacking and twisting needed to follow two stories at once. Though usually used to establish a moral verdict (politics politics) outside the self-blinkered word of acting and directing, thus in tone deflating or shredding the frontline illusioners (stage actors), the formula can also work the other way: over the heads of a too-plodding gaggle of simulations there can be superscribed a captivatingly magical – even if perhaps diabolic – over-narrative made only the more plausible as the motives in play at the “front” become the more ordinary, less self-observed, blatantly un-self-censured, boringly practical. A persuasive account of the why and wherefroms of dream and magic in this mode becomes very camera-worthy, video-persuasive even (especially!) as it is delivered interstitially. Probably the best known for-film version(s) of this subgenre of backstage musical is the Broadway Melody post-script to Singing in the Rain. But (back to the East) its shadow flickers subtly through the chuanqi tales of “traditional” Chinese operas from the moment they first came to be taken down in celluloid. Song at Midnight (1925?) is perhaps the earliest and best known in the magic shifted version, but it endures straight through and beyond the Maoist years if mainly in the social “revelations” (exposure) mode, Farewell My Concubine 199- ) and Shanghai Triad (1995) bring the genre to its greatest visibility, though also probably end.

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