The Love Eterne ★★★★½

Shaw Brothers musical adaptation of the Butterfly Lovers story (also done as a non-musical by Tsui Hark in 1994), where the heroine disguises herself as a boy to go to school and falls in love with a fellow student who doesn't know her true gender. After several years, the truth is revealed but they're still kept apart by the girl being forced into an arranged marriage. Death and transfiguration ensue.

The gender relations are further complicated with a meta-twist wherein both leading roles are played by women (one playing a woman pretending to be a man, the other simply a woman pretending to be a man, both actresses (Betty Loh Ti and Ivy Ling Po, respectively) are terrific. Director Li Han Hsiang is reputably a master of this kind of Huangmei Opera film, but this is the first one of his movies I've seen. The lavish and intricate Shaw Brothers sets and Li's flowing camera movements mesh beautifully with the delicately propulsive rhythms of the songs, and there are hints of the kind of Sternbergian obscuring of the frame that Chor Yuen would take to extremes in his 70s wuxia films.

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