The history of cinema in China is rich, varied, and complex. Since 1905, the time when the country started making movies, there have been several Chinese flicks that manage to blow western audience away. Chinese and Hong Kong stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and others are famous not only in their own countries but all across the world. Before we go any further about China and its movies, it is imperative to remember that there are three distinct film industries in China — the Chinese mainland film industry, Hong Kong cinema, and Taiwanese cinema. We shall not be talking about any one industry in particular, but all of them combined.
In the 1930s began a rich period of filmmaking in China, though most of the films were either communist or nationalist propaganda films. Some of the movies even showcased the rivalry between these two ideologies. This period was known as the Golden Generation of Chinese cinema. During this time, Shanghai became the hub of Chinese films, and it was here that even western films garnered a lot of viewers. Shanghai slowly came to be regarded as the ‘Hollywood of The East’. The enormous growth and prosperity of Chinese films halted after the Japanese invasion and occupation of Shanghai and the rest of the country. It was only after the Second World War ended that the Chinese film industry began to grow and prosper once again. ‘Spring in a Small Town’ (1948) is a bright example of post-war Shanghai films.
Hong Kong is also a massive film industry, and because it was under the British rule, Hong Kong enjoyed artistic freedom which was unseen in Shanghai or Taiwan. Some of the most important films from China are Hong Kong productions. The martial arts cinema thrived in Hong Kong with the rise of production houses like Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest. It was with Golden Harvest that Bruce Lee made his first film, ‘The Big Boss’ (1971).
When the 1970s came to a close, Golden Harvest picked up another young actor who would go on to redefine martial arts cinema forever — Jackie Chan. Chan started his career playing extras and we can even see him as an extra getting beaten up by Bruce Lee in ‘Fist Of Fury’ (1972). Hong Kong crime films also became extremely popular during the 1980s and 1980s, and with the help of directors like Ringo Lam and John Woo, some absolute classics like ‘A Better Tomorrow’ (1987), ‘City On Fire’ (1987), and ‘Hard Boiled’ (1992), came out. Chow Yun-fat became an international sensation during this period. Thus, we see how vast and dense the history of films in China is. If you want to explore Chinese cinema, but do not know where to look for some easily accessible films from the country, then you have come to the right place. Here’s the list of really good Chinese movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now:
7. Us and Them (2018)
‘Us And Them’ is directed by Rene Liu and stars Jing Boran, Zhou Dongyu in leading roles. The film centers around their characters, Lin and Fang. The two of them fall in love but eventually, the harsh realities of life keep them apart. The movie uses a nonlinear format of storytelling, with jumping between the past and present. While the past is shown in color, the present is shown in black and white. This effective use of different tones for nonlinear storytelling was popularized by Christopher Nolan in ‘Memento‘ (2002).