On Tuesday I went along to the Anna May Wong Must Die! event for a special screening of Piccadilly presented by Jasper Sharp and Anna Chen. While I wasn’t so mad about Anna Chen’s poetry raps, I did find her talk quite entertaining and thought-provoking and I greatly enjoyed the film itself.
Watching with me was my friend Edine (from The Marshmallow Kisses) and it was interesting to see her reactions, as a Hong Kong-born Chinese, to early Hollywood portrayals of Chinese people – “who’s Fu Manchu?” she asked.
Piccadilly is rightly called by the BFI “one of the pinnacles of British silent cinema”. I was absolutely struck by its modernity – the dynamic cinematography, the black humour – and its sumptuous sets but it is Anna May Wong’s performance as Shosho, the doomed dancing scullery maid, that really shines.
Unfortunately, there are no decent videos online of the film but here are a couple of short documentaries about Anna May Wong, which do feature some lovely clips and photos.
Her story raises a lot of questions about race, sex, gender and culture that continue to be relevant today.