Oh, for the decadent pre-Communist-era of Shanghai! Vice, glamor, high stakes, and violent outcomes. 1930s Shanghai has become a genre unto itself–novels, narratives, restaurants, films, couture.
The latest film in this genre, simply titled Shanghai, is to come out sometime this month if the advertisements ring true. (It’s been in the works for years, with an original release date of over a year ago.) The movie starts out on a high note with a stellar cast of John Cusack, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, and Ken Watanabe.
The official synopsis touts it as a Casablanca-style international thriller set in the ancient Chinese city a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cusack’s character is good, Chow Yun-Fat’s is bad, and Ken Watanabe’s (my favorite actor in this lot, although Chow’s a close second) is an enemy by nationality. And Gong Li’s needs to be saved by the white guy.
I haven’t seen the film yet, so won’t form more opinions about it now.
A couple days ago I wrote about a visit to the Cathay Cinema in 1995 where I saw (surprise!) the 1930s Shanghai-inspired Red Rose White Rose. Later that summer, in the industrial city of Wuhan, I saw Shanghai Triad, the Zhang Yimou-directed film about–1930s Shanghai!
And then there’s the 2005 film, the White Countess, starring Ralph Fiennes and the late-Natasha Richardson. (My husband fell asleep during this film, but I’ll watch anything about White Russian and Jewish settlers in Shanghai, no matter how drab the story.) I just loved the documentary, Shanghai Ghetto (2002) about the Jewish settlers there.
Even if 1930s Shanghai has become a cliche, I’m still game.