Metamorpho-poetic Legending in 1950s Film: (1) Ashima

Yet here it is: myth, metamorphorphosis, other-wordly venue, speech by song and echo only. Defined unmistakably as the “property” of extra-Sinitic, virtually out-of-history sub-national cultures, protected not by Imperial solicitude (as in Manchu times), but by ANTI-imperial self-isolation: the state-supported “native” headman the consistent villain, betrayer of not just his people but of their inevitably “genuine” flows of non-norm-obliging feeling.

Not just that that race and language divides come to the fore as positives – a kind of echo of cross-“color” divisions – but that is at least in two of the three of these films and their balletic affines a strangely Greco-mythological echo. Storyline starts with invisible intuition or seduction by music (not words); next Bacchanalian exuberance and too-easy romance; moves then through (to) jealousy aroused in a high-status household whose status and wealth are snubbed; then to pursuit and cosmically disturbing entrapment of the fleeing lovers by the furious rejectees ; then finally (and most evocative of the world of Greek pastoral legend) the lovers are parted by a barrier of stone cliffs and the sinking to the end of mortal life by the love-object – but in the Ovidian manner restored to an immortality in love sustained by speechlessness and echo alone. The rue-filled impetuous male is left bereft in the world of the living, but the two still share the invisible bond of music/song – inaudible to others but grievously heard and answered by magical echo springing from the still–singing but bodily eternally removed girl – now an immortal.

Fate and Love:

Fate, which giveth and then taketh away in almost all mythological romance, enters early in the plot(s) as two greatly distanced and heterotribal lovers are brought together by sound and accident – not negotiation or courtship. The consummation- the mountain-top – comes at the great, almost pan-human Gathering, the great once-yearly spring festival, which elsewhere is religious, but in the “wild” bucolia of the hills is a venue for romantic encounter and (knowingly) doomed promise of an eternity of happiness ti come: worldless fate unites, just as silently (but with more tokening of outcome) it waits, as embodied in the masked and skeletal=costumed stalker in Orfeo Negro, to snatch happiness away, with no hope of worldly regainment. Fate it is, as well, which is the raison d’etre of something elsewhere extraneous to Chinse stage-art: the Chorus. At the start compassionate but ambiguious soothsayer, elsewhere prankish (at play with the hero’s ambition), finally deliverer of the eulogy, or, better, of the descriotion of the magivcally transformed future that the end of the catastrophe foreaugurs.

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