Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Model Works | Chicago Reader

Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Model Works

During the Cultural Revolution, Chinese theater and cinema were limited to productions of “model works,” ideological operas commissioned by Madam Mao; three decades after that calamitous period, propaganda pieces like The Red Women's Detachment are being revived onstage in a much different China. This 2005 documentary from the Netherlands presents some lively clips from old film versions, and surviving artists sadly recall the dogmatic contraints of the era. Despite the fascinating topic, director Yan-ting Yuen offers relatively little history or criticism of the works themselves, squandering screen time on such gimmicks as mock voice-over and scenes of young people performing hard-rock and hip-hop versions of vintage songs. It's enough to make you pine for the good old days when irony was illegal. 85 min.

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