In the 1980s, 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 ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
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Wu Qinghong
Bin Li ...
Xiao Gen Er
...
Lu Jun
Yang Tang ...
Zhou Meifen
Xueyang Wang ...
Xiao Zhen
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Wu Zemin
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Storyline

In the 1980s, 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 ? Written by anonymous

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3 June 2005 (China)  »

Also Known As:

Shanghai Dreams  »

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1.85 : 1
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Soundtracks

Gotta Go Home
written by Frank Farian, Fred Jay, Heinz Huth, Jürgen Huth
performed by Boney M.
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User Reviews

 
A slow and insightful drama tracing the cycle of dreams and disappointments in Communist China
21 June 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Shanghai Dreams is a slow, insightful drama set in the 1980s in Guiyangg, a town in China's Guizhou province. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, efforts to create a 'third line of defence' against the Soviet Union led to an influx of migrants to inland settlements. Guiyang was one such destination, but the town has since grown dilapidated and its people despondent. The opening scene introduces the central character, Qinghong, engaged in a group session of callisthenics, a façade of harmony that belies her unhappy existence and the fractured, disillusioned society that she inhabits.

Qinghong's domineering father makes her life a misery. Li Bin, young factory worker seeks Qinghong's affections, but is thwarted at every turn by her father, who is mistrustful of this locally-born suitor. The tragic consequences that ensue from the suppression of this relationship are especially troubling in that they appear to vindicate the father's negative view of country folk – that they are not to be trusted. It is unfortunate that the film focuses almost exclusively on the lives of the city folk who have moved to Guiyang and gives short shrift to the country folk living there.

The quiet rebellion of Qinghong and her friend Xiao Zhen is handled more effectively. The duo escapes the clutches of their parents and head to a party with other rebellious teenagers. The party is a slightly surreal affair, combining Westernised clothing (flares and the like), Boney M songs and some memorable disco moves. The conflicts that divide the superficially harmonious town are again apparent when the party is violently interrupted by workers from a neighbouring factory.

As the film progresses it becomes increasingly clear why Qinghong's father is desperate to keep his daughter on a tight leash. His family moved to Guiyang some ten years previously, enthusiastically backing the government's plan to strengthen the interior of China. But the dream of a successful new life in these new surrounds has come to nothing: the town is moribund and there are few opportunities for young people. The Communist Party is present only as a faint babbling on TV and radio. Qinghong's father desperately wants to move back to Shanghai, and therefore also wants to keep his daughter from becoming attached to the country folk who live in Guiyang, including Li Bin. Qinghong's parents sacrificed their happiness to embrace an ultimately hollow dream and are now sacrificing their daughter's happiness to sustain their dream of escaping back to a better life.

The malaise in the town of Guiyang is reinforced by the visual style of director Wang Xiaoshuai. Until the very end of Shanghai Dreams we see little of the countryside; the drama unfolds largely within the confines of the town and the repetition of scenery and camera angles makes for a stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere. Throughout the film, Xiaoshuai deploys unusual camera angles to considerable effect, particularly when filming the distress of the long-delayed encounter between Qinghong and her would-be boyfriend.

The enigmatic ending to Shanghai Dreams will likely cause confusion; I for one cannot fully fathom the meaning of the final scene. However, although this is not an altogether satisfactory note on which to end the film, this is still one of the finest Chinese films that I have seen to date.


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