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Published on Nov 18, 2013
This unusual footage shows excerpts from a Chinese opera performance at a theatre in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It was filmed from the audience seats (in at least three different camera positions) on February 8, 1944. The footage was shot by Vancouver filmmaker and cinephile Oscar Burritt.
In these edited excerpts, the first section (0:10 – 1:31) appears to have been filmed from the front row of the theatre. The major characters are recorded, along with some telling facial expressions — but the the lens is almost too close to the action. The actors often crowd the edge of the frame, and when they work downstage, they tower over the camera. Because of the low light levels, the lens’s depth of field is extremely shallow, resulting in some rather soft-focused shots. Burritt changes position, taking a single too-brief shot of the view from the balcony seats (1:32 – 1:35). He then moves to the right side of the auditorium, where he has a better angle on the action. The film ends abruptly as two of the actresses seem to step out for their curtain call (2:14). The onstage orchestra is seen briefly (at 0:53 and 1:50), and there are a few glimpses of people looking on from backstage (at 0:40 and 1:41).
Edited excerpts from the film "[Chinese theatre performance]", shot by Oscar C. Burritt, Vancouver, B.C., 1944-02-08. From the collection of the BC Archives, Royal BC Museum; description AAAA1119.