Saturday, 9 April 2011

More Chinese Sprechstimme

Fong Yim Fun (芳艷芬) plays the clever maiden in this 1958 film "Red Matchmaker" (red meaning auspicous not Communism). What's so special about this is the clarity of the voice parts, recitation rather than singing.  Because it's stylized, there's room for improvisation. Listen to the little kid who rats on his older sister. Later the matchmaker makes him apologize to save his sister's reputation so she can be married off to the man she loves, arranged, of course by the crafty matchmaker. The stylization is great for comedy, too. The kid wails  "Don't beat me Mama !" but byiou know it's not violent. The "mother" is a man. He's the celebrated Lee Hoi chuen (李海泉). Fong Yim Fun was the top star in her genre of Cantonese opera. All opera singers, even the greatest, made lots of ordinary films because that's how the business worked. No fuss about changing styles. Fong Yim Fun made relatuvely few straight movies, but she was brilliant in comedy where she often played a flirtatious but very sharp modern girl.

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