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This is the story about China’s Joan of Arc, lady general Hua Mulan. In a tiny Hunen village, there lives the happy Hua family. Father Hua Hu, a veteran of many wars, is now retired. When a frontier tribe invades in force, her father is called in, his beloved daughter Mulan answers the call in lieu of her father, and saves the country.
Lady General Hua Mulan, a Huangmei opera musical film directed by YUEH Feng and produced by Shaw Brothers Studios, a prominent movie production company in Hong Kong, is a story of Hua Mulan who distinguished herself in battle after entering the battle fields disguised as a man in place of her frail father. What is most impressive in this film is that Hua Mulan performs the role of different genders without much difficulty. In her given roles, she does not attempt to find her identity but playfully goes back and forth between the two genders. Hua Mulan is a prudish woman who merrily sews and at the same time, a general who bravely commands hundreds of soldiers with outstanding martial arts skills. Accordingly, the tune of the music also flows freely between high and low notes. The film becomes complete when Huangmei opera’s unique feature of female actors playing the roles of male actors is incorporated into the film’s narrative. Even though recurring emphasis on loyalty towards one’s nation and family and Hua Mulan’s return to the role of a typical woman in the end may be frustrating, the scenes of her solving problems on her own are extremely appealing. That is why the portrayal of Hua Mulan at the end of the film is all the more attractive. In other words, it is because the portrayal seems to be the outcome of a decision that she had made on her own. Today, she
is a good daughter dressed in pretty clothes but no one will ever know what she will be doing and what type of clothing she will be dressed in tomorrow. (KIM Bo-nyun)
YUEH FengYUEH Feng
One of Shaw Brothers’ star directors, YUEH Feng specializes in Huangmei (a musical genre in which actresses take on the roles of male characters and the majority of lines are delivered in songs). Many of his Huangmei films, including Juliet in Love and Lady General Hua Mulan, were received favorably. In 1968 he rose to the challenge of making a martial arts film for the first time, and enjoyed a commercial success with The Bells of Death.