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|Index||38 reviews in total|
One day you wake up wishing had a lot of things. You dream of luxury,
plenty of everything, succulent foods, fine jewelry, luxury cars... and
why not, live in a mansion. To achieve this, scores with a beautiful
body and a pleasant voice to sing. And then, you attract a man who can
bring things like you want... and as much you longed to have them, do
not ask questions, but you know who you are provided by not acting with
dignity, hurt many people and not treat you like you wish to do so.
Suddenly you realize you're paying a high price... nothing, absolutely nothing. Because then you realize that things are worth very little, if a woman does not feel valued, respected and treated with affection. You realize, of little use for luxuries, if you're constantly round the fear and loneliness. You realize that, although now "have everything", you'd be willing to leave if you find someone you truly loved.
Like so many women, this is the experience that goes Xiao Jingbao (Gong Li more fascinating than ever), a girl who also encouraged the dream of love, but that falls into the trap of material success and ends in the hands of a gang gangster who will give you all them learned to give. The story is seen from the perspective of a boy named Shusheng Tang, who joins the gang as a servant of the beautiful Xiao, induced by a uncle who expected out of poverty in which has so far lived. Frequent and well achieved subjective shots, put us at crucial moments in the boy's point of view, and with him witnessed the cruel world and weaknesses of the outlaw.
Zhang Yimou shines with a flawless picture, a beautiful staging, and a careful pleasing soundtrack that includes songs, among which stands out, especially, the lullaby duet portraying Gong Li and Yang Qianquan girl who gets an emotional role as Ah Jiao, a being that sensitize the beautiful singer and will feel that life offers us wonderful things, but maybe for her are now too late.
Once again, Yimou takes a woman as the center of the universe, and his deep nostalgia when he remembers, how the women lost so many dreams and hopes, by yielding to ambition.
"SHANGHAI TRIAD" is the kind of movie that no girl should miss.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Zhang Yimou's film about power play, loyalties and betrayal was adapted
by Bi Feiyn from the aptly named novel "Gang Law", written by Li Xiao.
The film focuses on a young boy whose family name wins him the honour
of working for the most powerful crime boss in Shanghai, Tang. Little
Shuisheng finds himself landed with the thankless task of being
personal servant to the bosses number one girl, "Bijou" (or "Miss" to
anyone else). He soon learns how unjust the world is when his uncle is
murdered by a rival gang and his mistress treats him like dirt.
Yimou cleverly manipulates the audience, making us fond of characters whom we turn away from later, and endearing us to others whom we despised early on. The central character, "Bijou", is convincingly played by Gong Li. Throughout most of the movie she is quite easy to dislike, and it is only near the end of the film that we are allowed to develop some belated compassion for her. Shuisheng remains a rather naive pawn until ti's all too late, while the real villains who are responsible for creating the monsters they then self-righteously destroy, rear their ugly heads at the very last. Young Wang Xiaoxiao plays well the role of the green Tang, Shuisheng, while other support comes from Li Baotian as Tang the crime boss and Sun Chun as Song.
Zhang Guangtion provides a charming, melodic score and Art Directors Huang Xingming and Ma Yongming recreate pre-war Shanghai brilliantly. Unfortunately editor Du Yuan lets us down and "Shanghai Triad" suffers from over-length, with Yimou tending to excessively indulge on occasion. Otherwise this is an interesting study of a very different culture.
Monday, March 3, 1997 - Hoyts Croydon
Zhang Yimou's attempt to squeeze yet another Chinese history lesson into
of his movies aside, I still came away unexpectedly moved by "Shanghai
Triad." The story is fascinating, sometimes in a morbid way, sometimes in
childish one. I got the sense that I'm being witness to a myth in the
making, one of those amazing stories out of history that have underlying
messages about the human condition. Zhang's treatment of the aesthetic,
both visual and aural (Ajiao's song makes for a wonderful musical theme),
moving as ever. And since it's by him, all the symbols, allusions,
events, juxtaposition of characters - and all the rest of that - applies.
Gong Li as the bratty and doomed Bijou is wonderful to watch, and Wang Xiaoxiao is very effective as the audience's stand-in in the movie.
And the history lesson wasn't so bad either.
This story is told through the eyes of a boy who has just begun working
as an underling for a Chinese mobster in the 1930s. It seems the young
man is the servant to the mistress of the triad chief and he is
treated, at times, more like a slave than a person. The lady is quite
beautiful but also seemed very petulant and foolish throughout the
film--making it very surprising indeed that this boy bonded so quickly
with the lady. Had I been in the boy's place, I probably would have
taken the first chance to either poison her or run!
SHANGHAI TRIAD was nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar and this certainly isn't surprising when you see this film. It's actually pretty rare for a foreign film to get this nomination, but this movie was one of the most artistic films I have seen in ages. The camera-work is great--with the wonderful use of filters, excellent framing techniques and grand colors.
Unfortunately, while the film is very beautiful, the story itself is too often sterile and one of its main characters (played by Gong Li) is just too unlikable--seeming like a complete brat. While the mob boss is quite amoral and vicious, at least you didn't find yourself hating him quite as much--especially since he was a smart guy. Additionally, all too often, events occur off-screen and you only hear about them or catch glimpses of the results--giving the film very little energy. Fortunately, despite being slow, the film does end very well with some interesting twists--but not quite enough to redeem the film. Overall, it's very watchable but with more energy and a more involving story, it could have been so much better.
A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his
uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a gang
Roger Ebert provided a counterpoint to the film's general praise, arguing that the choice of the boy as the film's main protagonist ultimately hurt the film, and that Shanghai Triad was probably "the last, and certainly the least, of the collaborations between the Chinese director Zhang Yimou and the gifted actress Gong Li" (though Gong would again work with Zhang in 2006's Curse of the Golden Flower). Even Ebert however, conceded that the film's technical credits were well done, calling Zhang one of the "best visual stylists of current cinema." I don't know if I would be as harsh as Ebert. I do think the cinematography is the film's strong point, much more than the plot itself. But I take no issue with the boy being the protagonist. That seems to make more sense if you want to keep the gangster film fresh.
Another stunning achievement from Yimou Zhang, Li Gong and China.
Sumptuous in its splendor and gripping in its drama -- few films have
mesmerized me like Shanghai Triad.
From the glitzy, showy nightclub numbers to the simpler life in the country -- nothing is safe in a world dominated by a life of crime and showgirl/gangster's moll Bijou (Li Gong -- gorgeous and siren-like) finds herself in the middle of all of it as the girl of a very dangerous man.
As a woman who values her life of materialism, she is forced to re-examine and contemplate her own life when it clashes with that of an innocent servant boy enamored with the beautiful creature when they are forced to escape the dangers of Shanghai and seek refuge in a rural, isolated island locale. It is not a standard gangster flick as the film centers on these two main characters; but everything they do has repercussions mafia-related.
As I said ... the film is stunning (in ALL aspects). This has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it (Li Gong on stage early on -- sigh).
There is no dispute Yimou Zhang is still the best-known working
director from China, but after the lucrative-but-critics-panning CURSE
OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (2006, a 6/10), which also marks a reunite with
Goddess Li Gong after 11 years, his successive works (A WOMAN, A GUN
AND A NOODLE SOUP 2009, a Chinese adaption of Coen Brothers BLOOD
SIMPLE. 1984; UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE 2010, an over-innocuous love
story under the backgrounds of Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and
70s; and his latest, a westerner saving Chinese women from Japanese
invaders during Nanking 1937 stars the newly Oscar-crowned Christian
Bale, THE FLOWERS OF WAR 2011; I haven't watch any of them yet) all
have received pretty lukewarm feedbacks and even dire dissatisfaction
from both audience and critics. So since then his domestic reputation
has been quite disproportionate to his renowned international prestige.
SHANGHAI TRIAD, Yimou Zhang's period drama set in Shanghai of 1930s, has eluded me for 17 years, but sincerely culminates Zhang's ingenuity in his virtuoso cinematography scale, while the story itself, doesn't match his previous masterpieces, namely, TO LIVE (1994, an 8/10), THE STORY OF QIU JU (1992, an 8/10), JU DOU (1990, an 8/10) or his groundbreaking debut RED SORGHUM (1987, a 9/10).
The ugly truth is that Zhang is never an exceptional storyteller, if he has an excellent script (the said four films), with the aid of which the films surge onto an elated dimension of ethos, otherwise, the outcome could be a lesser achiever notwithstanding with stunning shots abound. Take this film for example, it owns an experimental use of camera angles, DP Yue Lv even garners an Oscar nomination, for me the cunning tactic is the maneuver of two drastically different terrains: Shanghai's lavish villa for the richest and an ominous countryside island with wild weed backdrops, they are in parallel to dissect the storyline with an absorbing visual momentum which flourishes successfully to meet the eyes, especially for those non-Chinese audience bearing some exotic curiosities.
The cast is solid, Gong Li (at her prime-time being the muse of Zhang's oeuvre) does provide a wide range of emotional scopes as the boss' mistress whose ill-fated destiny sparks a woeful compassion, and surpasses the common dolly bird blandness, but the film still has too many corny characters (basically all the male characters here, with Baotian Li, the ruthless gang lord as a borderline exception) and lacunae in the script which should not have been underwritten (an non-fictional gangster's life could be more intriguing and intricate).
ps: As a home-grown Chinese, Gong Li's cabaret renditions are quite amateurish and lip- synched, while the music numbers are sentimentally undue, which I have already had a bellyful of.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been a big fan of Zhang Yimou since seeing "Raise the Red Lantern"
and later, "Hero". His artistic work with the camera is a wonder to
behold and sometimes, the tale he can tell with his visuals surpasses
the written dialogue and storyline.
In this movie's case, the same can be said, but for a different reason. The storyline is threadbare, not a whole lot happens until the very end. Instead, the first 75 minutes is spent looking at and analyzing every detail of the main protagonists. Gong Li has the role of Xiao Jingbao, a nightclub singer and mistress of Tang, one of the biggest triad bosses in Shanghai. Her servant boy Shuisheng gets a lot of screen time because in essence, this tale is told from his perspective. But instead of dwelling on the storyline, he spends most of the movie staring bewildered at the people around him.
The eventual ending hints at some intrigue as you see the gangsters double-crossing each other but that payoff doesn't really play itself out. It's more just a quick summary to end the movie and leave with a sad note that this story will be repeating itself yet again with more mob bosses and more poor girls being brought into this underworld because of their beauty and innocence.
It's hard to get into a character driven movie when all the main characters have so little to like about them. Gong Li plays the role as a spoiled brat who despite her best intentions, ends up making things worse. The boy is too incompetent to really like. And the triad boss doesn't show off any cunning or ingenuity until the very end.
Overall, it's a nice film to look at but so little happens and the characters didn't capture my interest.
Sorry Zhang - 5/10
A country lad in brought to Shanghai to be a servant to a gangster's moll. There's not a whole lot to say about this movie, it's pretty standard stuff about evil corrupting and destroying everything it touches, et cetera. Li Gong's performance is good as always, and the sumptuous photography is a delight to behold, although the color palette appears muted on the DVD. The plot and Li's character take some interesting turns in the third act, but it's not quite enough up for the mundane build-up. Although it's not one of Zhang's best, especially from this period, it's perfectly watchable and sticks with you for a bit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shanghai Triad is a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou.It stars Gong
Li together with Li Baotian and Wang Xiaoxiao. The film is set in the
criminal underworld of Shanghai.In the story,country boy Shuisheng is
brought to Shanghai by his uncle who wants the boy to become a member
of the powerful gang ruled by manipulative Tang.
Shanghai Triad takes place over the course of seven days in the 1930s.The story begins as a fourteen-year-old boy, Tang Shuisheng has just arrived in Shanghai from the countryside. He is met at the docks by his uncle, Liu, who has sent for Shuisheng to work as a servant for a Triad Boss, also named Tang and a distant relative. Before he meets his new employers, however, he is taken to a warehouse where two rival groups of Triads carry out an opium deal that goes wrong, leaving one of the rival members dead.Shuisheng will serve Tang's capricious mistress Bijou, a nightclub singer whom the boss proclaimed "the Queen of Shanghai." When the boy's uncle and the gang's several other members die during a rival gang's unsuccessful attempt on Tang's life, the latter retreats to a remote small island, taking both Bijou and Shuisheng with him and thinking of revenge.
Shanghai Triad is a coming-of-age film about a boy that gets exposed to the mob or Triad.It tells us how he gets initiated into the gangster's violent ways.Aside from that,it also tells us how an outsider gets disillusioned to the ways and means of the gangsters in the case of Bijou.The acting was superb especially from Gong Li and Wang Xiaoxiao.Both provided interesting characters.The direction was outstanding and excellent as well from Zhang Yimou.This is could have been a classic film but it falls short to be one for its screenplay shifted its focus more into Gong Li's character rather than that of Wang Xiaoxiao (for commercial purposes I suppose for she was a big Chinese star and the director's relationship with her) when its focus should be more of the young boy rather than the Triad boss' mistress.But nevertheless,it has the capacity to entertain.
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