Smash the Old World!

Jiang Qing Critiques Feature Films

The following excerpts are taken from Jiang Qing's May 1966 declamations on the egregious ideological errors of a number of feature films made during the 1950s and early 60s. Her remarks appeared in full in a 1967 rebel publication, Important Speeches by Comrade Jiang Qing—a great victory for Chairman Mao's revolutionary line in the arts (Beijing: Beijing chubanjie geming zaofan zongbu, 1967), pp. 33-37, from which we have translated the following. More information on Jiang Qing and feature films is also available.

Click on the titles below to view short excerpts from the films.

Youth in the Flames of War

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It basically promotes the individual and extols personal heroism. It's got something of [the traditional love story involving confused identities that features] Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai about it. There's no mention of political work at all and it promotes military-centered thinking in which commanders are given license to act as warlords. It distorts life in the army and distorts the image of soldiers."

Snow in the Forest (reworked to become the modern Beijing revolutionary opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, the central character of which is still Yang Zirong — see Multimedia: operas)

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "This film is seriously flawed. It's about rooting out bandits in the Northeast during the land reforms [of the late 1940s]. But there is no mention of the land reforms themselves."

"The army does everything; the masses are nowhere to be seen. It is as though the army is divorced from the masses. Furthermore, the film reeks of banditry. There's one scene in which the bandits conduct an interrogation. It's a distortion. It makes out that Tiger Mountain was taken by Yang Zirong alone, without anyone else: individual heroism. After Yang disguises himself as a bandit he looks more like one of them than they do. It's a distortion. There is no [depiction of] class struggle. Faced with death the bandits are still recalcitrant. There are no contradictions."

Hero in the Bandits' Den (excerpted in Morning Sun)

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It prettifies the agent Ah Lan. That dance scene is an egregious display of the bourgeois lifestyle. It distorts the image of the underground [Party] agent. Made up, Commander Lei looks more like the enemy than the enemy. Wiping out the bandits is done without mobilizing the masses. It's all about sending people in. Like Snow in the Forest this [kind of depiction] comes from the Soviet Union."

The Young People in Our Village

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It depicts four couples in triangular relationships and in the process distorts the [revolutionary] spiritual mien of youth in the country. There are no heroic figures; they are all middle-of-the-road characters. It vilifies revolutionary cadres; the older head of he commune is depicted as a stick in the mud; the accountant is made out to be a negative character."

Five Golden Flowers

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "The whole film is about one couple; everyone else is merely there to highlight their love affair. In regard to the ethnic minorities there is no attempt to depict them making any progress, their political maturation or the changes in their outlook. All they do is eat, drink and fall in love. All those love songs are [also] very problematic."

Revolutionary Family

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It distorts the historical truth and extols the Wang Ming line [of the early 1930s that advocated revolutionary change in the urban centers of China]. It doesn't depict [the strategies of] armed struggle, the countryside surrounding the cities. It concentrates instead on underground Party workers, and they look as though they enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. The larger the organization the more lavish it is, the life it supports more extravagant and divorced from the masses. The whole film reeks of personal sentiment."

Eternal Life in the Flames

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "The most serious issue is that this film [in effect] overturns the verdict on the (traitorous) municipal Party Secretary of Chongqing. It distorts work in the White Areas [controlled by the Nationalists in the 1940s, as opposed to the Red Areas, or Communist-controlled ‘liberated' areas]: the municipal Party Secretary discusses [Party] work in a restaurant; and the moment she's arrested Elder Sister Jiang admits that she's a Party member. It claims that the guerilla forces in the Huaying Mountains were under the leadership of the Chongqing municipal Party which itself was directed by Shanghai. It makes out that the [Party leaders in the] cities led the struggles in the countryside. This not only goes against the Chairman's Thought, it is also historically inaccurate. At the time things were not directed by the Shanghai Bureau, they were under the immediate leadership of Party Central."

"The characters Xu Yunfeng and Elder Sister Jiang are both inappropriate. Xu's family appears to be one of intellectuals, Jiang seems somewhat spoiled, Huazi Lang is like a lunatic. And then there's bad lines in the script, like when the head of the Nationalist agents Shen Zui says to Jiang, 'I could strip you naked.'"

Trials of a Long Journey

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "The Chairman has made the criticism that, ‘When depicting splittism it only shows the First Army, not the Second or Fourth.' The scene in the yard is violent and depressing; one instructor even dies. The film doesn't depict the Chairman's military line, nor does it extol the Long March as a victory for the Chairman's Thought. Because of the crucial historical importance of the Long March, and as this film has had a definite impact on the masses it's necessary to marshal resources to remake it."

Lei Feng

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It has faults. It is unreasonable to squeeze all of his good acts into just one day. The portrait of the Chairman in the film is bad; it constitutes a political error. It's no good that Lei Feng's legacy of good deeds is taken up by Wang Dali, a middle-of-the-road character. The portrayal of the head of the flood crisis operations team is inappropriate. He says to Lei Feng, 'You're a good successor [to the revolutionary cause],' but then he ends up dying. That's just wrong.'"

Big Li, Little Li and Old Li

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "Crass and vulgar. To set the film in an abattoir is itself devious. It hints that we will be slaughtered like pigs. The cadres are either fat pigs or skinny monkeys. They lock the workshop head in the freezer; all the cadres are made out to be like swine."

Struggle for an Ancient City in the Fires and Winds of Spring

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "Yang Xiaodong betrays weakness at a crucial moment; Jin Huan is like a fishwife: there's that silly scene when she stabs the enemy with her hair pin. Yin Huan is a middle-of-the-road character who constantly makes mistakes, and she falls in love the moment she lays eyes on Yang Xiaodong. Far too much time is devoted to their relationship. Two of the three times that Yang's mother appears it's to talk about her daughter-in-law. This is a distortion of the image of a revolutionary mother."

Tide of Anger

Jiang Qing, May 1966: "It extols Peng Dehuai and overturns the verdict on him. At the end it depicts the assault on the city without describing the establishment of a revolutionary base in the countryside. It depicts an erroneous military line. Oh, and the songs are problematic too."

 


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