Two Stage Sisters

dir. Xie Jin

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

Skip to schedule and film credits
Two opera singers become entangled in a bitter rivalry over nothing less than the New China itself, in this delightfully bitchy socialist variant on the classic Bette Davis-Joan Crawford melodramas.

DIGITAL RESTORATION!

Two Stage Sisters was denounced at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution for its glorification of the bourgeoisie, and the charge is not far off the mark: this stunning film noir melodrama by "Seventeen Years" master Xie Jin is a sumptuous treat straight out of the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford playbook. The film follows two (unrelated) country opera singers in a travelling troupe who relocate to Shanghai in the 1940s, where they engage in a bitter rivalry over nothing less than the New China itself: one woman convinces a major theatre to mount a revolutionary model opera, while the other embraces the glamorous trappings of capitalism as provided by her industrialist boyfriend. A scenery-eviscerating performance by Xie Fang, a host of memorable tunes, and an over-the-top (and truly fabulous) final courtroom scene made this a major revelation at last year's (Re)Inventing China series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. "Two Stage Sisters feels like a culmination of the contradictory forces that shaped Communist Chinese cinema up to that point.... Above all, [it] is a story of how art itself is a means for both societal reconciliation and revolution" (Kevin B. Lee, Moving Image Source).