That ultimate failed actress, Madame Mao, got revenge on more successful artists when she came to power: she decreed that only Yang Ban Xi, an uber-nationalist form of opera, could be performed. The glimpses from filmed versions of these operas included here are fascinating, if all too brief; talented performers selling incredibly banal patriotic drivel (while the melodies are frequently lovely, the lyrics have to be heard to be disbelieved). The film also includes contemporary interviews with the artists whose lives and careers were both made and wrecked by their association with these operas. Once the trials of the Gang of Four began, the writers, directors and performers who'd created these works were suddenly persona non grata, and their stories are frequently heartbreaking. They've lived long enough, however, to be embraced by a new generation of fans, and sequences with people who've loved these movies since childhood (sometimes finding their first erotic stirrings aroused by on-screen images that look beyond prim today), as well as with artists whose work responds to this material, make for very interesting viewing. Perhaps, as students of the form have written, this film's only a superficial overview of a more complex subject, but for the vast majority of Western audiences who are unfamiliar with the form, it makes for enthralling, stimulating viewing. Recommended.