The Pure Film movement to elevate cinema as an art form enjoyed a global following amongst commercial to avant-garde filmmakers and theorists during the interwar period. In East Asia, the influence of this vibrant discourse is perhaps best represented by the widely studied Japanese Pure Film movement, but little is known about its presence in China or the enigmatic figure Liu Na'ou who imported these discourses from the West, via Tokyo to Shanghai. Intended to improve the quality of Chinese films, these modernist film theories inevitably became embroiled in Liu's political campaign to protect freedom in the arts and entertainment against leftist political dogma of national defense and rising proletarianism. Following Liu's violent assassination for treason during the Sino-Japanese war, what is now considered Western Classical film theory became subject to the same stigma and taboo that has plagued the writing of Republican-era Chinese film history.

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