What If Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Had Been a Maoist Revolutionary Epic?

Friday A/V Club: Springtime for Mao


From the 1965 Chinese film The East Is Red, a "song and dance epic" based on a stage show that had been produced under the personal supervision of Premier Zhou Enlai, I give you the fabulous dance steps and rat-a-tat gunfire of "March of the People's Liberation Army":

You can see the seeds there of the infamous Maoist model operas that were performed throughout Communist China during the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76. But during that period, this Springtime-for-Mao extravaganza was banned from China's stages and screens. Apparently, even The East Is Red's heavy-handed propaganda wasn't heavy-handed enough for the authorities. Only after the Cultural Revolution ended and the so-called Gang of Four were ousted from power did the regime allow the film to be screened again.

That's right: In 1977, this exaltation of a totalitarian party represented liberalization. I guess you've got to start somewhere.

The whole movie is embedded below, complete with an opening message denouncing the Gang of Four and celebrating the decision to let the film be shown once more. Mini-review: The dancing is much better than the writing.

Bonus link: "What If the Beach Boys Had Been Communists?"

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. If you just want the installments that feature kitschy propaganda for Marxist-Leninist dictatorships, you can watch artifacts from North Korea here and from the Stalin-era Soviet Union here.)

NEXT: The Hellboy Reboot Is a Damned Awful Movie

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  1. Coreographed by Comrade Graham Martha

  2. That musical doesn't seem to have anything in it about the Russians supplying Mao's forces with hardware captured from the Japanese or Mao's forces attacking the Nationalists while the Nationalists were fighting to expel the Japanese from China. By the end of the musical, do they have anything about how China might still be a province of the Japanese empire if it weren't for the USA? The Chinese must be so grateful!

    1. No, but there must be a segment on the intellectuals working on the farms in the Cultural Revolution, right? I mean, that was the high point of the Revolution for true believers.

      1. The Great Leap Forward went from 1958 to 1962. Given that this was filmed in 1965, I'm guessing the whole purpose was to remind people who'd recently suffered from starvation how lucky they were to have the communists in charge.

        Yeah, starving to death by the tens of millions is awful, but from the way they talk about this Chiang Kai-shek guy, starving to death must be better than living under him!

    2. " Mao's forces attacking the Nationalists while the Nationalists were fighting to expel the Japanese from China."

      Nonsense. The Nationalists were in alliance with the Communists since the late 30s. Before that the Nationalists were responsible for numerous massacres and pogroms against the Communists. Their efforts to expel the Japanese were never impressive.

  3. Who's winning the trade war?

    China's total trade with the U.S slumped by 11% in the first three months of this year, according to the latest customs department data. That's mainly due to a 28% slump in U.S. imports to China for the first quarter, in yuan-denominated terms. Exports to the U.S. fell 3.7% over the same three months. In March alone, U.S. imports into China fell 21%, while Chinese exporters shipped 10.6% more back to American consumers.

    I'm sick of winning already. Trump, please stop all this winning!

    1. How is that "winning"?
      US businesses did not export as much to China as in the past. How is this a "win"?

      1. Dude, do you really not get sarcasm?

  4. Coming to the Kennedy Center this fall. Much better than Shen Yun.

    1. "You must see it before you die!"

  5. They've gotten more subtle in their statist propaganda. HERO is entirely watchable, and it's point - that Emperors are always corrupt and evil - is even relatively on target. Of course it doesn't address that Senior Party Members are just Court Officials with less splendiforous clothes, but one can't have everything.

  6. "What If Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Had Been a Maoist Revolutionary Epic?"
    "What If the Beach Boys Had Been Communists?"

    What if Queen Elizabeth had a dick?


    1. Xe could still identify as a queen.

      1. I know this isn't Reddit, but man that deserves an upvote....

    2. What If the Beach Boys Had Been Communists?

      You Gotta Fight For Your Right To A Party, Comrade!

      1. Oh, need more coffee.

        Beach Boys != Beastie Boys.

  7. By far, the loveliest song of the 8 model operas commissioned by Mao's wife and Gang of Four ringleader, is Bei Feng Chui, (The North Wind Blows). It's from the opera "The White Haired Girl."

    It's about how a family of peasants is oppressed by debt and landlords.

  8. "Mini-review: The dancing is much better than the writing."

    So, IOW, the whole thing sucks? God it was painful to watch trained dancers doing choreo less challenging and intricate than what I've seen seven-year-olds do.

  9. It told me to slow down

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