CENTER STAGE (Stanley Kwan, 1991)
March 12 - April 1, $12
“Isn’t she a replica of myself?” Maggie Cheung says of Chinese actress Ruan Ling-yu in 1991’s Center Stage, in which Cheung plays Ruan as well as Maggie Cheung. “Maggie, may I ask if you wish to be remembered half a century later?” a man asks, to which Cheung responds, “That’s not so important to me. If future people do remember me, it won’t be the same as Ruan Ling-yu, as she halted her career at the age of twenty-five, when she was at her most glorious. Now she is a legend.” The Hong Kong–born Cheung is now a legend herself, having made more than ninety films since her career began in 1984, when she was nineteen; current and future people are sure to remember the glamorous superstar who continues to help spread Chinese cinema around the world.
Cheung, a former model and beauty queen, is radiant as both herself and Ruan as director Stanley Kwan goes back and forth between the present, as Cheung is making the film, and the past, as she portrays Ruan rising from an extra to a star in the late 1920s and early 1930s, at the same time Japan is mounting attacks against China. Cheung (As Tears Go By, In the Mood for Love), who was named Best Actress at prestigious film festivals in Berlin, Chicago, Taiwan, and Hong Kong for the role, is joined by a stellar cast, including Chen Yen-yen, Lily Li, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Carina Lau, and Chin Han; the real Ruan is seen in archival footage. Made thirty years ago, Center Stage, also known simply as Actress, is now available in a 4K digital restoration, created from the original negative and approved by Kwan (Women, Hold You Tight), streaming March 12 to April 1 on Metrograph’s online platform.