Shanghai Dreams (2005) [Artificial Eye]
DVD9 | ISO+MDS | PAL 16:9 (720x576) | 01:56:28 | 7,57 Gb
Audio: Mandarin-Shanghainese AC3 5.1/2.0 @ 448/192 Kbps | Subs: English Genre: Drama | 3 wins | China
In the 1960's, encouraged by the government, a large number of families leave Chinese cities to settle in the poorer regions of the country, in order to develop local industry. The film's main character is a 19 years old girl who lives in the Guizhou province, where her parents have settled. That's where she has grown up, where her friends are and where she first experiences love. But her father believes that their future lies in Shanghai. How can they all keep on living together when they don't share the same dreams?
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In good company such as "Broken Flowers" which won the "Grand prix" at Cannes this year, "Shanghai dreams" brought home the "Prix du jury" which it well deserves. The movie has little to do with Shanghai except as a backdrop. The story takes place in Guiyang in the province of Guizhou in the '80s.
The centre character of the movie, Qinghong (the Chinese title of the movie), is a bright, sensitive and sensible teenage girl who moved with her family from modernised coastal Shanghai to the more backwards interior 10 year ago. Her father was initially happy to be a worker participating in the strategic scheme to form a "third line of defence" in the event of war against the Soviet Union, but soon started to blame her mother for persuading him into this folly. He became bitterer every day as Shanghai prospered and longed to return at the first available opportunity which, unfortunately, seemed elusive.
This historical background adds another dimension to the familiar and universal story of general gap and family strife. Added to this is social and class conflict, when Qinghong develops a romantic attachment to a young local factory worker. There are also subplots that give the audience insightful glimpses, through various well-depicted character, into the life of the industrial-rural community.
The movie starts at a characteristically slow pace, but picks up momentum towards the end with a tinge of a suspense thriller (just a tinge though). It has a solid ensemble cast, mesmerising photography of the bleak but character-rich landscape and great direction. Thoughtful attention to details is very evident in, for example, some of the simple scene of family dinner. There are also crisp montages (particularly towards the end) that tell the story in a remarkably efficient and interesting way.
"Shanghai dreams" is one of those movies that starts feeling a bit slow but gets more and more engrossing once you get into it. You come out with a feeling that your experience has been enriched. It's a movie that you would want to talk about afterwards.
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During the Cultural Revolution, Qinghong's parents took up Mao Zedong's call for a Third Line of Defense by relocating from Shanghai to work at factories on a rural outpost in the Guizhou Province. Years later, their ever-dimming hope of returning home has been re-channeled into the raising of their daughter, believing that their best prospects for their children's re-integration into the city lies in Qinghong (Gao Yuanyuan) obtaining a college education and maintaining their social separation from the provincial locals. But Qinghong's sentiments for her adoptive hometown is less entrenched, having become accustomed to the quiet rhythms of the bucolic town (a familiarity of ritual reflected in the recurring images of her morning exercises at school and her clandestine meetings with a local young man who works as a mill apprentice).
Driven to near obsession to spare his children from repeating the disappointments and failures of his own frustrated life in exile and encouraged by recent political developments that seemingly point towards an opportunity for relocated workers to finally return home to Shanghai, Qinghong's father becomes increasingly intrusive in his daughter's budding romance and drives a wedge between the two in preparation for what he believes will be their impending departure, unwittingly setting the stage for the reluctant young couple's conflicted farewell.
Using predominantly medium shots and incorporating recurring long shot landscape images to create a pervasive sense of distance and estrangement, Wang Xiaoshuai evokes the resigned nostalgia of uprooting and perpetual exile of Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Time to Live and the Time to Die and Jia Zhang-ke's attention for quotidian details that humorously encapsulate provincial youth culture (most notably, Platform) in Shanghai Dreams to create an understated, yet compelling and incisive tale of displacement, consuming obsession, and failed idealism.
Strictly Film School
- Theatrical Trailer
- Wang Xiaoshuai Filmographies
- Making Of
- Production notes