China Nights

March 21, 2015
past event image
Film past event


China Nights was the second film in what came to be known as the “Continental Trilogy,” along with Song of the White Orchid and Vow in the Desert. All three are national allegories centered on a romance between the Japanese star Kazuo Hasegawa and Shirley Yamaguchi (Ri Koran). Like its predecessor, the film centers on misunderstanding, mistrust and the redemptive power of romance. Yamaguchi plays a rebellious young woman, who comes around to appreciate the Japanese through Hasegawa’s tough love. In the famous turning point of the film, Yamaguchi turns love-struck with Hasegawa (and awestruck by Japanese goodwill) with a slap in the face. While this is a convention of Japanese prewar cinema, the allegorical nature of this project led to quite different interpretations in Japan and China. Despite this bit of cultural blindness on the part of the Japanese filmmakers, they cleverly crafted different dénouements for the film; in the Chinese version the lovers live happily ever after, and in the Japanese version Yamaguchi commits suicide. Not surprisingly, the Chinese saw the film as a slap in the face. China Nights was one of the main reasons for Yamaguchi’s death sentence after the war.

1940, 126 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Osamu Fushimizu. With Shirley Yamaguchi (as Ri Koran), Kazuo Hasegawa.

Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Post-screening reception will feature an anthology of popular music from this period as well as a display of kimonos from the 1940s, courtesy of a private collector from Osaka in cooperation with Japanese Culture & Style, Rinko Kimino, Globus Washitsu and Tea-Whisk. Kimono or other vintage attire welcome!

$15/$12 Japan Society members, seniors & students
SPECIAL OFFER: Purchase tickets for at least 3 different films and receive $2 off each ticket when purchased together! Special offer available only Japan Society Box Office or by telephone at (212) 715-1258. Offer not available online.

Part of the 2015 Globus Film Series The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi & Setsuko Hara.

Stories from the War
Marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, Japan Society presents the Society-wide series Stories from the War. Encompassing theater performances, film screenings, lectures, panels and educational opportunities for young people, programming from January to August explores history and considers challenging issues that the U.S. and Japan faced surrounding WWII through a contemporary lens.

Stories from the War is supported by a generous grant from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission.
  • Saturday, March 21, 2015
  • 7:00 pm