By the time we get to the scene above, the main character Ling Ling has come to Shanghai from the countryside, been oppressed by the rich, and put into prostitution by a man who seemed to be helping her after someone had tried to rape her. In the scene above, she is in the brothel where she puts on a smile on her face at her madame’s request that looks about as genuine as the one’s Lillian Gish put on her face with her fingers in Broken Blossoms.
After this, she becomes a fallen women. Then the political and revolutionary part of this film kicks in and she is on her way to becoming a martyr for the restoration of China from the Japanese and a “warlord” in Shanghai.
The problem with this film is that it’s kind of sloppy and a bit too blunt. The girl’s story and the story of the nation needed to be blended more seamlessly in order to be really effective. As it is, it’s worth a look.