Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another Night at the Chinese Revolutionary Opera

More from The East Is Red.

Take that, Imperialist Western Barbarians! Take that, Chiang Kai Shek!  We'll show 'em!

Hey comrades, I've got a Great Hall of the People, let's put on a show!

For all of its spectacle and lavish production, The East Is Red sometimes feels like a high school pageant.  I can almost hear the Chinese version of a high school drama coach yelling at everyone to "smile!" during rehearsal.  Back in the mid 1970s, when I was a teenager, my high school staged a couple of stage pageants for the American bicentennial.  They both had the same simplified official version of history with lots of slogans and jingoism as in The East Is Red.  What they didn't have was the production, the scale, the professionalism, and The Great Hall of the People. 
There are probably more people on stage and in the orchestra and chorus in this movie than there were students in my large high school.

I remember back in my mural painting days, we had a large contingent of Russians, many of whom were Party painters in the old Soviet Union.  The firm I worked for got a big job from some restaurant for Republicans in Washington DC.  We had to make all these sloganeering murals of pioneers and cowboys and baseball players and astronauts.  When asked if they could do this job, the Russians replied, "Sure!  We did this kind of thing all the time back in Moscow."
For me, that's the whole Cold War in a nutshell.

Old East European joke:
"Under capitalism, man exploits man.  Under communism, it's the other way around!"

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