Street Angel analysis

Topics: Chinese art, Film, Sociology Pages: 9 (2614 words) Published: November 9, 2010

What sort of social critique does this Street Angel (1937) present? What does it say about issues involved in "modernization"? What symbols are portrayed in Street Angel (1937)


Every country has specific famous era in which their cinema portrays the reality of their society, the 1930's was the era in which China's cinema bent itself towards portraying society and modernization.

A lot of distinctive features developed by Chinese film over the last hundred years are the result and testimony of the particular kind of interaction linking culture with politics in the twentieth century china. As a kind of mass entertainment Chinese film has been affected by historical forces in a unique manner. To understand Chinese cinema's motifs, images and predominate narrative modes and thematic orientation requires a thorough knowledge of both the industry's development and historical changes taking place in the cinema.

This paper shall analyze the movie Street Angels (1937), taking under consideration the symbols used in the movie. Apart from this the paper shall also highlight the fact that it is based on modernization in china and it shall also analyze how the movie is based on the social conditions of China in 1930.


Street Angels is a film about the lower depths of Shanghai. Written and directed by Yuan Muzhi in 1937 for Mingxing, it is in a dark, expressionistic style and is regarded as one of the major classics of Chinese cinema. It features the great actor Zhao Dan as a young man who makes a precarious living playing the trumpet in street processions. When the girl he loves is raped by one of her parents' clients, he finds that society offers no way for the poor to get justice. The film was heavily censored by the KMT government which was still trying to appease the Japanese. The movie is based on a kind of totalizing nostalgia, which uses the past so that the movie can develop continuity across the past to the present. It was greatly admired by critics for its portrayal of the oppressed in Shanghai at when the movie was released, till today; Street Angel is at times regarded as a true classic of the "leftist" filmmaking period which was developing at a great speed.

An alternative film aesthetic Yuan Muzhi's Street Angel (1937).in line with Shanghai cosmopolitanism has since become a negative example in official historiography. The leftists, on the other hand, claimed outstanding films to their credit (Gary p16)

However, some films such as Street Angels, escape persecution and are today acknowledged as the precursors of contemporary realist modes of filmmaking that also draw upon traditional forms of representation. Street Angel portrays bighearted urban youths struggle to flee from their corrupt surroundings in the poorest neighborhood of Shanghai. This tale of unity, friendship, and affection living in the corrupt ways of urban society has been inferred in different ways. It is without a doubt a critique of Shanghai's semi-colonialist society; it has also been considered as a Chinese portrayal of Italian neorealism.

Street Angel is based on Shanghai's street prostitute. It openly portrays the fact that, these girls had no position in society; they were just bought and sold, and given very little independence. They are trapped in this vicious cycle of b being bought and sold and their way to escape is by wedding some one or running away.

Thus it can be said that it portrays the era before socialist morality became creed, prostitutes thrived in China's port cities. Shanghai was infamous for its brothels in the 1930s and '40s (The Washington Post p1).

The street angle was made in the early years of the decade, thus at that the Chinese cinema was working on portraying change. Thus it can be analyzed keeping in mind the factors of a change, complicated social, cultural as well as traditional norms which portray the 1930's. This movie involved a lot of analyzing...

References: The Washington Post; Prostitution Thriving Once Again in China 's Prosperous Coastal Cities (1992) p1 retrieved from
classical-iconoclast; (2010) p1 retrieved from
Thompson Kristin and Bordwell David; Film History: An Introduction. Second edition. New York: McGraw-Hill p47
Nowell-Smith Geoffrey (1999); The Oxford History of World Cinema Oxford University Press, 1999 p12
Pang Laikwan; Building a New China in Cinema (Rowman and Littlefield Productions, Oxford, 2002 p25
Gary G. Xu; Sinascape: Contemporary Chinese Cinema, Rowman & Littlefield 2007 p16
Yingjin Zhang (2004); Chinese National Cinema (National Cinemas Series.), Routledge 2004 p36
Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao ; Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, Routledge, 1998 p10
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