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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.
the story takes place in inland china in the 70's. it shows the life of
a middle class family relocated to the inland factory by the communist
party. these people who were originally from shanghai, consider life in
the mountainous town to be futureless for themselves and their
children. the father in particular takes out some of his frustration on
his daughter, who is just blooming and is in love with a young man.
this movie works on several levels. it shows the conflict between the parents and the young woman, it shows the secret life of her social age, it discuss's the cultural revolution (the kids dance to western music) happening in china about that time as contrasted to the staid and solid existence of a factory worker. the movie does critique the communist government, but in an elliptical manner, since i guess it does have to pass the censors in china. but i think that works to it's credit.
this movie shows a complete and very accurate view of china in this time period. the houses, the kitchen, the school, the way they dress and their aspirations, the attitude of the parents and the children, it is all spot on. my only negative would be that the storyline for the young girl is somewhat overly dramatic. it is as if the director started by focusing on her and then shifts to a more general broad view of life. i especially enjoyed the acting of the father and overall i thought it was very realistic and well shot.
i highly recommend this movie.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 60s, in order to build the "third line of defense" against the
Soviet Union, many young people from major cities, like Qing Hong's
parents from Shanghai, went to the countryside. Many years later, they
desperately dream of going back to where they are from, because they
can't see any future for their children. Qing Hong's dad did everything
to protect her and hopefully the whole family would return to Shanghai
eventually. However, Qing Hong has her own life and friends, such as
the terrific Xiao Zhen. Her dream is not necessarily the same as those
of her parents.
Sadly, the dream of returning Shanghai over powers everything including love, family, and fate. This is a great film with superb performance and profound sadness. Almost all the characters in the film are mercilessly tortured by the lives none of them want to be in. They all had their dreams, but unfortunately to make the dream come true is a painful journey.
While flicking through some random TV channels i stumbled onto Shanghai
Dreams. The main character Qinq Hong's yearning for freedom from her
father is expressed by Red High Heels (made me think of Wizard of Oz)
The lightness of touch at the beginning seeks to help absorb the viewer
into the Story. The Director works well in forcing us to empathise with
an initially ogre like father, the frustrations of being sold a lie are
all too obvious. I did feel that Qinq's best friend could have been
given more time, also the Wrist Cutting scene lacked impact and
realism, Back on her Sewing Machine sitting bolt upright?
I would also agree about confusion at the end, who was executed? was it the Prisoners or the Family
The reviews calling this film boring and unrealistic show the grip Hollywood has on cinema audiences. One of the best features about non Hollywood cinema, particularly Asian cinema, is a fearless adherence to telling a story without a fairytale ending or some heartwarming relief. Shanghai Dreams explores a number of themes, such as adolescent rebellion, sexual liberation in 80s China and parental wishes and techniques. It's an epic and absorbing tale told using realistic and often bleak cinematography, in a hilly Chinese inland countryside that seems to be forever beset by fogs and rain. Although the near 2 hour length means it is exhaustingly bleak and leaves one emotionally drained by the end.
The conflict between authoritarian fathers, expecting respect, and their children is a common theme of contemporary Chinese movies; so are the political changes of the recent past (although don't expect to see a film about the Tiannanmen Square massacre). 'Shanghai Dreams' fits this pattern, and there are some highly effective scenes in it: one, a showdown in a factory, with the sound of the machines providing a hideous underscore to the threat of violence; another, where an attempted escape is followed entirely from within the back of a vehicle. But I'm not quite sure it deserved its Cannes prize; Goa Yuanyuan appears a little too old for her character, some of the dialogue is a little expository (at least in translation), and the sense of claustrophobia supposedly felt by its characters (exiles from Shanghai, stuck in a remote industrial town) is not entirely conveyed: I didn't feel that I was pining for Shanghai when watching this movie, and perhaps I should have done. And I didn't quite know what to make of the ending, which though shocking, has a slightly incidental feeling to it. This does not make this a bad movie; but I've seen other films (for example, 'The World'), which have offered more original insights into the fast-changing face of modern China
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie the other night and there were several things that
I found great about it, although the movie also had serious flaws.
First was the great way this film captivated the conflict between generations, the father - daughter conflict, the wise against the passionate, the orthodox against the liberal values. The growing youth culture, Americanisation, as seen through the eyes of elders as evils, somehow aware they are fighting a hopeless battle against changing times. In school, where the kids are still doing mass exercises to old revolutionary songs, but afterwards, when they let their hair down, organise dances and do John Travolta dance moves. And the awkwardness of it all. The film portrays wonderfully how these young people are eventually subdued and conformed to society, pressed into marriage by social conventions or forced to run away, and how those same social conventions keep two other lovers apart.
I also enjoyed the way the small Chinese family was portrayed. There was never a moment of sentimental family harmony, yet there wasn't the big battles and confrontations one would have expected. The confrontations between daughter and father are shot uncomfortably static, and are one sided, as the main character is a passive girl with only far flung dreams of being free. There is always a unresolved conflict between them, but usually they try to co exist peacefully. When the daughter rebels, she does so in form of actions and not words. The two families' struggle become one and both parents are generous and wise to each other with their children and despite of their flaws and shortcomings they try to manage their best.
Performances were altogether good, memorable is the father who seems to go from outright tyrant/villain to a sympathetic man in the end, fighting for faith in in a better place for his children. However, the relationship between the girl and her local boy wasn't very well founded and I found that it lacked substance, particularly towards the ending and the rape. The love relationships were dealt with at such a distance that mostly I wasn't very involved or couldn't understand the two girl's motivations. However this movie seems to have focused on the family as a organic unit, constantly changing and evolving, and the constant burning and building of bridges between generations.
I found this film moving and haunting yet far too long (3 hours plus). I like long movies but there wasn't enough material to back it up, and at points you could almost feel as if being there in a backwater province, forced to be bored to the fingertips...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hi everyone! I just finished watching this movie and I am a little
confused about the ending... I ticked spoiler, so if you missed the
warning you still have time to stop reading!! ..
the 3 shots at the end while the car drives around the hill.... are those for the criminals being executed or for the family?? because the car doesn't come back into view from around the hill while another car in the opposite direction goes behind the hill and around back into view....
I'm a little confused about this one! thoroughly enjoyed the movie. i recommend it! :) Kristine
Qing Hong, 青紅 is a film that captures this strong innocence and sadness
that is rarely seen in modern films these days. When I first watched
the film I thought the father (played by AnLian Yao, 姚安濂) was a
bastard. But on the second viewing, and knowing the course of events, I
understand more of why he is the way he is. AnLian Yao's performance
was also striking and effective. YuanYuan Gao 高圓圓 portrays Qing Hong
seemingly effortlessly and with a melancholy that is heart wrenching.
She has this beauty that isn't forced and shines on screen.
I liked how the rich historical backdrop of the movie played second to the emotional lives of the characters involved. Though the times may be different now, the characters still speak clearly to me the same pain and hope that exists today.
This film was truly enjoyable to watch.
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