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A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy Charteris, wealthy entrepreneur, has purchased a large area of Shanghai, forcing Gin Sling to vacate by the coming Chinese New Year. Under orders from Gin Sling, who has found out Poppy is Charteris' daughter, the smarmy Doctor Omar leads Poppy deeper and deeper into an addiction to gambling and alcohol. Gin Sling, realizing that Charteris was her long-ago husband who she thinks abandoned her, plans her revenge by inviting Charteris to a Chinese New Year dinner party to expose his past indiscretions. Charteris, however, has a suprise of his own to spring on Gin Sling. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the play, the setting was a brothel run by "Mother Goddam", who was once sold into prostitution, and it dealt with drug addition and nymphomania as well. Many initial adaptations of the original play were rejected by the Hays office, and they discouraged studios from making the film. The Chinese consulate also voiced objections to the portrayal of the Chinese in the play. See more »
The moving finger writes, and having writ - it moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
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Opening credits: "Years ago a speck was torn away from the mystery of China and became Shanghai. A distorted mirror of problems that beset the world today, it grew into a refuge for people who wished to live between the lines of laws and customs - - a modern Tower of Babel. Neither Chinese, European, British nor American it maintained itself for years in the ever increasing whirlpool of war. Its destiny, at present, is in the lap of the Gods - - as is the destiny of all cities. Our story has nothing to do with the present." See more »
Marlene Dietrich,even if she does not appear is present here :she's the marvelous Gene Tierney,the terrifying Ona Munson and the cynical Victor Mature."The Shanghai gesture" is one of my favorite Sternberg movies.I love the lines which warns us at the beginning of the film:it's not real Shanghai,it does not take place in the present.
"The Shanghai gesture" is an unclassifiable work: a film noir?a melodrama?Most likely an extravaganza ,an incredible exotic story which smells of the intoxicating perfume of poisonous flowers.The gigantic dive looks like a cobweb which the high priestess Mother Gin Sling spins ."Why not Mother Whiskey Soda? " Tierney asks.
All the characters are not what they seem ,they just pretend.Tierney has two names (one of them is the well-chosen "Poppy") and we only learn her real identity in the second half in a scene which seems completely "out of the movie".Mature is Doctor Omar ,doctor of nothing! Even the women in the cages and the sailors who buy them just pretend .Nothing is real.
Tierney's downfall is depicted in lavish detail:from the elegant woman of the beginning to the wreck Gin Sling invites to her Chinese New Year feast .Directing is absolutely breathtaking,when the camera circles around the dive where a cast of thousands -Sternberg even pays a tribute to the extras in the cast and credits,which is rare ,to my knowledge ,the first and last time it had been made-surrounds the heroine ,or in the final scenes ,when the shots merge with the firecrackers of the New Year.
"The Shanghai gesture" may be a guilty pleasure.But this kind of pleasure ,I ask for more!
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