Sunday, July 8, 2012

Little Toys (1933)

Friday July 13, 7pm, The Castro San Francisco

Saturday May 26, 2:30pm, The Harvard Exit, Seattle

 "To kowtow before a tiger means to be his food."

An artisan toymaker is forced to leave her bucolic village and move to Shanghai when her husband dies and cheap foreign imports ruin her business. The change has tragic results for Ye Dasao (Ruan Ling-Yu), swallowed up by the violence and anonymity of city life, as she descends into madness.

Released by the Lianhua Film Company in 1933, Xiao Wanyi (Little Toys) was the third and final pairing of the "Great Poet" director Sun Yu and "The Garbo of Shanghai" Ruan Ling-Yu. Sun paints a sentimental portrait of country life with the lyrical imagery of handcrafted toys and masterful choreography of large groups. The jarring transformation to an urban nightmare is propelled by a dogged undercurrent of anti-imperialist propaganda. Of particular note are bookend images of tears on Ye's hands and an innocent image of toy tanks in playtime, which suddenly transports the viewer into the horrific reality of war.

The 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Center for Asian American Media present Sun Yu's Little Toys, starring Ruan Ling-Yu, with live musical accompaniment performed by pianist Donald Sosin.

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