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By Matt Abotomey
August 03, 2018

Starburst: Icons of Chinese Cinema

This free film series at the AGNSW celebrates the work of four trailblazing Chinese actresses.
By Matt Abotomey
August 03, 2018

in partnership with

For a building that houses some of the most glorious static images in the country, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has got some cracking moving ones as well. You just have to know where to find them.

For a few years now, as part of the Art After Hours programme, the gallery has been screening classic movies in its basement (alright, the Domain Theatre) not once, but three times a week — for free. Building the seasons around a place or period, the films have ranged from Charlie Chaplin's silent masterpiece The Great Dictator to Scorsese's ode to 1970s New York, Mean Streets.

And the gallery's at it again. From now until the end of August, AGNSW is celebrating some of China's female screen legends with a series called Starburst: Icons of Chinese Cinema. The chosen titles span various genres — from silent cinema to New Wave to more modern masterpieces — with one common thread: strong female leads. As a collection, the films work to represent the rise of the term mingxing (bright star), coined to describe the 'screen diva' phenomena that continues to shape Chinese cinema today. It is also replete with cinematic delights that may well have been edged out of mainstream screenings by the never-ending parade of Marvel Cinematic Universe releases.

Jia Zhangke's The World has echoes of Synecdoche: New York, as workers in a world-themed amusement park start longing for escape. Platform, also by Zhangke, explores China's move from Maoism to market capitalism by tracking a group of young artists for a decade as they transform from the Fenyang Peasant Culture Group into an electronic band.

No sequels, no lightsabres, no choc-tops and no tweeting spoilers. On Wednesdays at 2pm and 7.15 pm and Sundays at 2pm, the AGNSW has the perfect antidote to Hollywood's monotonous offering — you'll just have to go down three levels to find it.

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