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A Visit to the China National Film Museum

September 12, 2011

On a recent visit to the Bejing, I finally made it to the China National Film Museum, apparently the largest film museum in the world. It is indeed quite impressive, a overview about Chinese film history that is so extensive that it often borders on the pedantic and exhausting. Surprisingly, Hong Kong, Macau and even Taiwan are included without much ideological fuzz, there is a life-size effigy of Bruce Lee and even some film clips from films like „A Chinese Ghost Story“ – isn’t that an example of the „feudalistic superstitions“, that mainland Chinese censors are usually so worried about?

The museum has a large multiplex cinema including IMAX hall on its ground-floor that seem to draw most of the crowd to the somewhat remote museum that is located next to the airport road not far from the 798 Art District. The five-story maze of exhibition halls are arranged around a huge Guggenheim-style spiral staircase and were much less well-attended then the cinemas, when I visited. There are some really great pieces from the early period of Chinese cinema during its “Shanghai period”. Once it gets to the part about the revolutionary cinema of Maoist cinema, it gets a bit boring, and eventually you might feel crushed by the presentation that is as megalomanic and suffocating as today’s Beijing in general.

As much of the information is only in Chinese, I was not able to figure out which film includes this great slightly psychedelic, Busby-Berkeley-style choreography:

Any hints are welcome.

Do not leave too late, as later in the afternoon there will be no more regular taxis dropping off visitors, and you are left with some crooked drivers hanging around at the exit of the museum who charge semi-criminal rates to take you back downtown.

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