Film Archive to present "From Small Town to the Big Screen: A Retrospective on Wei Wei"

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Best known by cineastes for her affecting performance in "Spring in a Small Town" (1948), Wei Wei began her acting career in theatre before entering the film industry in the 1940s. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will present "From Small Town to the Big Screen: A Retrospective on Wei Wei" in October by screening seven films from different phases of her career. The retrospective will offer audiences a valuable glimpse of the on-screen elegance and vivacity of Wei, who was a close witness of the dramatic history of the film industry in the Mainland and Hong Kong from the 1940s to the '60s.

     Originally named Mou Mengying, Wei Wei developed a strong passion for theatre when she was in school.

In 1947, Wei made her film debut with the minor role of a sex worker in "Night Inn" (1947), based on Maxim Gorky's play "The Lower Depths" and produced by the Wenhua Film Company.

     "The Great Reunion" (1948) is being screened in the HKFA and possibly Hong Kong for the first time. A family is forced to separate twice, first after the Lugouqiao Incident and then in the Civil War. Wei, as the second sister, is at once genial, impulsive and progressive, standing at the forefront of the era.

Film critic Wong Ain-ling will host a post-screening talk in Cantonese.

     Directed by Fei Mu, "Spring in a Small Town" is a love story that takes place in southern China. Zhou Yuwen, played by Wei, takes care of her ill husband. Her former lover's visit makes the three fall into a tangled web of relationships.

The film was voted number one on the list of "Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures" by the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2005, and has been regarded as a representative and influential work of China's film industry.

     In the late 1940s, Wei followed Fei and the founder of the Wenhua Film Company, Wu Xingzai, to Hong Kong and worked with their co-founded company Dragon-Horse Films on "The Show Must Go On" (1952) and "Between Fire and Water" (1955).

     For her performance in the "The Show Must Go On", Wei throws herself into her character, mounting difficult acrobatic acts with aplomb and abandon, all without stunt doubles and special effects.

     In the 1950s and '60s, living in cramped, partitioned tenements was a way of life for many Hong Kong people. "Between Fire and Water" stressed the idea of having harmonious families and mutual help as the only way to overcome challenges. Wei, playing a member of one of eight families squeezed inside a tenement, turns in a standout performance.

     Revolving around themes of family and morality, "Year In, Year Out" (1955) sees Wei playing a daughter-in-law and turning in a bravura performance, embodying every bit the pungent, rapacious woman that's her character.

The film was awarded Honorable Film of 1949-55 by the Ministry of Culture.

     "The Foolish Heart" (1956) can be regarded as a variation of "Spring in a Small Town", as Wei finds herself transposed from the ruins of 1940s River South to the metropolis of 1950s Hong Kong. Her modest, loose-fitting qipao gives way to sequined, body-hugging glamour and her embroidered cloth shoes are replaced by fancy high heels, announcing the emergence of a new femininity.

     "Between Fire and Water" and "The Foolish Heart" are in Cantonese and the other films are in Mandarin. "Night Inn" and "The Great Reunion" have Chinese subtitles, "Spring in a Small Town" has English subtitles, and the other films are without subtitles.

     Tickets priced at $45 are now available at URBTIX (" target="_blank">

For credit card telephone bookings, please call 2111 5999. For programme details, please visit" target="_blank">, or call 2739 2139.

Published on: 2017-09-08

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