The Big Road

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The Big Road
Chen Yanyan in the Big Road 1934.jpg
Chen Yen-yen in the Big Road with Zhang Yi
Directed bySun Yu
Written bySun Yu
StarringJin Yan
Li Lili
Zheng Junli
CinematographyHong Weilie
Distributed byUnited States (DVD):
Cinema Epoch (dvd)
Release date
Running time
104 min
LanguageMandarin Chinese
The Big Road

The Big Road (Chinese: 大路; pinyin: Dàlù), also known as The Highway, is a 1934 Chinese film directed by Sun Yu and starring Jin Yan and Li Lili. It is a silent film but with music and sound effects added post-production.[1] The film deals with a group of workers who are constructing a highway for use in the war against the Japanese.

The Big Road was named the 30th greatest Chinese film ever made by the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2004.[2]


Chen Yen-yen and Li Lilli in the film

Twenty years ago, when Jin’s mother died on the road to escape, she handed her son to her husband and said in her last breath: “Come on the kids, find the road, go on." Twenty years later, Brother Jin grew up, he and his friends - old Zhang, Zhang Da, Little Six, Little Luo, and Zheng Jun, are sick of being bullied and exploited. Hence, they decide to join the mainland road construction engineering team to participate in the construction of an important military road. The road was built in a dangerous area, and Brother Jin and others have a meal at Dingfuji rice shop in the village. They have a friendship with Dingxiang and Jasmine. The military situation is in tension, so the road workers and soldiers stay up all night and work together. The enemies notice that this road is bad to an aggressive policy, so they secretly instruct the traitor to destroy. The traitor invites Brother Jin and other workers to go to the banquet and then persuades them to give up on the road. During the banquet, Brother Jin and his friends refuse the traitor’s shameless request. Therefore, the six prisoners are imprisoned in the basement. Lilac (Dingxiang) and jasmine realize that these people have not returned for a long time and then start to suspect that something bad happens. The next day, Lilac and Jasmine enter the traitor’s house and rescue Brother Jin and others. Old Zhang sacrifices during the rescue. After Brother Jin and his friends return to the village, the local garrison reports and punishes the traitors. When the road was repaired, the enemy plane suddenly struck. Brother Jin and others protect the road, fight against enemy planes, and finally sacrificed with Jasmine. After the war breaks out, the support troops join the front line from the new road. At this time, the only surviving cloves, the military vehicles that drive away, seem to see that the six young men, such as Brother Jin, are still pulling together.


Critical Reception[edit]

The scholar Chris Berry implies that “Big Road” is one of the leftist Chinese films of the third parties. The road construction refers to the physical pressure of the job.[3]

Sun Yu is the first generation of the trend of the cultural trend in the 1930s[4]. Although the Chinese films of the 1930s are still in the formative and exploratory stage of creation, a series of films directed by Sun Yu has shown a relatively stable method of creation, Sun Yu's films usually focus on reality.[5]

The notion of Chinese family that is firmly anchored in two relationships – the individual and the family, as well as the nation and the family.[6]

Chris Berry's suggestions about the 'oddball figure' of Li Lili's Moli character in Big Road are relevant to Li Lili's character in Such Luxury. Li's Moli can be read as a partly unprecedented type, as well as a reinscription of types like the Wudan, the female warrior of opera in China.[7]

The patriotic narrative, therefore, was in constant tension with visual pleasure in Sun's films after 1933(Litter Toy, Sports Queen, The Big Road), diverting woman's bodily display from the intimate space of heterosexuality to a more open site. Women's bodies became a public site of propaganda. Under the struggle between patriotic discourse and visual pleasure, women characters in these films went far beyond the male(as subject) /female(as object) binary gender matrix.[8]


Featured in the film is one original theme song, "Song of the Big Road" (大路歌), composed by Nie Er, with lyrics by Sun Yu. Asides from expressing of the tramps of the road builders, they believe the song should emphasize more on the vigorous spirit of the fight for freedom and liberation of the contemporary youth with a heavy responsibility.[9]

The song that road builders and the villagers are gathered in the inn, and Moli sings for them is a traditional folk song about the hardships and suffering of the ordinary Chinese people. The lyrics appear in subtitles at the base of the frame in Chinese characters while Moli sings, as is the convention in Chinese film.[10]

DVD release[edit]

The Big Road was released in the United States on Region 0 DVD on May 8, 2007 by Cinema Epoch. The disc featured English subtitles and also included Sun Yu's Queen of Sports.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Carter (2010). East Asian Cinema. Kamera Books. ISBN 9781842433805.
  2. ^ "Welcome to the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards". 24th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
  3. ^ Berry, Chris. "Chinese left cinema in the 1930s Poisonous weeds or national treasures". Jump Cut. A Review of Contemporary Media. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  4. ^ 川, 石. "孙瑜:中国电影文化拓荒者". 中国新闻网. 中国艺术报.
  5. ^ 邵阳, 陆 (2004). "孙瑜导演风格论". 当代电影 (06): 57.
  6. ^ Han, Qijun (2015). "The portrayal of family in early Chinese melodrama films". Critical Arts South-North Cultural and Media Studies, pp. 419
  7. ^ Berry, Chris (1988) "The Sublimatative Text: Sex and Revolution in Big Road". East West Film Journal, 2:2 (June), pp. 66-85
  8. ^ Zhang, Ying (2011)."TRANSCENDING "VOYEURISM" : REREADING FEMALE BODY DISPLAY AND WOMAN'S DESIRE IN SUN YU'S 1930S FILMS". International Journal of Arts & Sciences, pp. 305-325
  9. ^ "大路歌". 百度. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  10. ^ Berry, Chris (1988) "The Sublimatative Text: Sex and Revolution in Big Road". East West Film Journal, 2:2 (June), pp. 66-85

Further Readings[edit]

小莲, 彭 (2017). "胶片的温度". SHANGHAI LITERATURE (05).

Laikwan Pang, Building a New China in Cinema: The Chinese Left-Wing Cinema Movement, 1932-1937, Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc 2002.

Sun, Shaoyi (2002). "Building a New China in Cinema: The Chinese Left-Wing Cinema Movement, 1932-1937". Lanham, Boulder, New York, London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.

Farquar, M., and Y. Zhang (2011). Chinese Film Stars. London: Routledge.

Edwin Mak,When Change Meant Change: Revisiting 1930s Chinese Leftist Cinema,MUBI.

External links[edit]