Past event

The Love Eterne free film screening This Hong-Kong classic is screening for free as part of the Colour Across Chinese Cinemas series - free

The Love Eterne is one of many adaptations of the Chinese folktale of Liang Shanbo Yu Zhu Yingtai or ‘the butterfly lovers'. Set in the Jin Dynasty era, the story follows Zhu Yingtai, a young woman who disguises herself as a man to study at an all-male school. There, she and her male classmate Liang Shanbo fall in love, beginning a legendary romance immortalised countless times in novels, poems, plays, and paintings, as well as film and television. The story had already proved a popular subject for colour filmmaking in China, serving as the basis for the nation's first colour film made under communist rule (The Butterfly Lovers, Sang Hu, 1954), yet the Shaw Brothers Huangmei opera version endured an unparalleled popularity, breaking box-office records in Taiwan and garnering a cult following there. As Taiwanese film critic Peggy Hsiung-Ping Chiao recalled: “Before it, films were seen only once. The Love Eterne prompted the practice of viewing and re-reviewing a film. Everyone compared how many times he or she had seen The Love Eterne. And there were many who saw it twenty or thirty times. The newspapers reported that an elderly woman the film 120 times … Housewives, young women, and children memorized the lyrics …” Like many operatic adaptations of the tale, The Love Eterne features two women playing the principal roles: Ling Po stars as the male character Liang Shanbo (one of many male characters she played in her career), while Le Di plays Zhu Yingtai, a woman masquerading as a man within the film's narrative. This casting further complicates the multiple forms of gender reversal and same-sex romance at the heart of the story, which have made the film a rich topic for debate around its depiction of queer and trans identities, as well as its queer fandom. Colour plays an important role in the construction of these gender roles. Long associated with feminine forms of adornment (whether through cosmetics or clothing), colour also has deep historical associations with queer self-fashioning (most vividly symbolised in the rainbow pride flag). Yet it is also colour's instability (as a phenomenon that shifts depending on the perceiver) that makes its use in The Love Eterne—a film about personal transformation—particularly apt.

+ Introduction by Dr Zhaoyu Zhu
+ The screening will be followed by a discussion with Professor Glyn Davis and Yixiang Lin

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