Laborer's Love

dir. Zhang Shichuan

Series - Higher Learning

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This charming combination of Harold Lloyd-like silent comedy and progressive social drama is one of the earliest surviving Chinese films.

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Although virtually all of early Chinese cinema has been destroyed, what remains offers a fascinating glimpse into the creative crucible of 1920s Shanghai. Laborer's Love, written by Zheng Zhengqiu and directed Zhang Sichuan — both of them regarded as founding fathers of the First Generation of Chinese cinema — is a synthesis of Harold Lloyd-like silent comedy and the May 4th literature then in fashion. While the film's charming story of a soft-hearted carpenter turned fruit peddler trying to impress his future father-in-law does not much seem like a call to class warfare, the pointed references to urban corruption and the character of a happily liberated young woman anticipate the progressive impulse in much Chinese cinema to come.