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Wang Xiaoshuai's Shanghai Dreams (青红)


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Saw this at the cinema yesterday.

Good film, I thought. If you've seen Wang Xiaoshuai's Beijing Bicycle, then you'll know roughly what to expect - by no means a light-hearted comedy. You'll also recognise some of the cast - the kid from BB (y'know, the one with the bike :wink: ) and his girlfriend are both here, but this time Gao Yuanyuan takes center stage as the passive teenage girl Qing Hong, and Li Bin has an occasional but important role as her erstwhile boyfriend.

I absolutely loved Yan Anlian as the intense, repressive father, desperate to escape the village he was sent to over a decade before as part of the 'Third Line', and I thought the entire cast did sterling work. Visually very attractive - set in Guiyang, think of the town in 'Missing Gun', but rainier.

Without wanting to give anything away - does anyone know if there are alternative endings for this film?


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  • 3 weeks later...


Uncensored: Wang's 'Shanghai Dreams'

By Joan Dupont International Herald Tribune

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2005

In "Shanghai Dreams" by the Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai, the focus is on the uprooted lives of a generation that moved from Shanghai in the 1960s to work in the undeveloped Guizhou Province. The Chinese government under Mao, fearing conflict with the Soviet Union, relocated factories inland to make up a "third line of defense." There, in the remote southwest, these exiles worked in factories and renounced their background and culture - but never their dream of returning home.

Wang's harsh drama, set in the 1980s, deals with the aftermath of this movement, and the return to Shanghai.

It is the first time that a filmmaker has taken on this subject.

"Shanghai Dreams" also deals with taboos and would have been banned in China not long ago. Recently, however, the Chinese government has been experimenting with easing censorship and working with directors whose films previously were banned.

"I felt very much alone until last year," Wang said, "when the situation changed. The film bureau had an important reunion, and decided to launch a new era of liberty. I got the permit to shoot, and pinned it up on the wall, and then I sailed right past the censors."

Wang noted the problems he encountered previously with censorship, and added: "Had the situation gone on, I might have caved in. It was too hard. So 'Shanghai Dreams' is born of a big change."

How much has his country changed?

"Since 'Beijing Bicycle,' only four years ago, the change has been enormous. Today there are no more bikes left in Beijing," he said with a laugh.

"I love making movies," he added. "I work with close friends - that's part of the pleasure. I've been working for 12 years, and now my films can be seen in Chinese movie houses. Cinema is my wife, my family. I feel good with it."

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Not exactly a movie to see if you are looking for the feel-good movie of the year, but I thought 青红 was a very insightful, complex, and well acted movie.

Like Roddy said, it's a bit hard to describe without giving away a lot of the details. The movie deals with a family that was relocated from Shanghai to Guizhou, and like the English title implies, the dream of coming back to Shanghai to have a better life. Yet while they are dreaming of going back to a now semi-utopian Shanghai, growing conflicts , or 矛盾's if you will, are building on all sides: between the daughter, Qinghong, and her father, between the father and the mother, between the girls in the town and their prospective male partners, between new fashions of the young and old traditional ways, between a need to work where the market allocates jobs and where the dumb-witted government assigns your hukou...etc. The film deals with how these conflicts are resloved and how the main characters react to them and try to shape their own circumstances.

I think this movie worked well at on one level portraying the life of one ordinary family, while on another level subtely critiquing the political and social systems that were still fairly oppressive.

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Shanghai Dreams' original Chinese title is "清红“ (Blue Red), pronounced Qing Hong. In the movie, the boy's always wearing something blue, and the girl always has something red on. I'm sure there're other meanings behind it, as well.

Yesasia.com, a US site, is also selling the DVD. Unfortunately it doesn't yet come with English subtitles. I think a non-Chinese edition should come out pretty soon since it did so well at Cannes. You might have to wait a few months. The director's last movie, "Beijing Bicycle," has been available on DVD with English subtitles for a while now.


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  • 2 weeks later...


I am actually organising a Film Festival in Italy where I would like to show the work of some chinese female filmmakers...

I got some nice titles already (six strong guys for instance), but could use some more films: any suggestion from your side would be more than welcome :-)

as for Shaghai Dreams, having been in Cannes it must have had subtitles at least in french...I will try to contact the festival...

anyway, thanks a lot for your great links and info :-)

talk soon again,


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That's great about the festival, Carmilla. "Shanghai Dream" does have English subtitles. I'm just not sure if the DVD currently available from China carry them. They probably do.

I don't know of that many Chinese female directors. It seems that the most famous ones working today are Ann Hui (Hong Kong) and Sylvia Chang (Taiwan).

Ann Hui:



I've only seen her Eighteen Springs, which I liked. It's one of those sad love stories, adapted from a book by the famous novelist Eileen Chang.

Sylvia Chang:


The actress Joan Chen also directed a movie a while ago, "Xiu Xiu, the Sent-Down Girl," that was very well received. I haven't seen it, though.


There might be more female directors. I'm just not well-versed in this area.

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Ning Ying directed the 1995 On the Beat about bored Beijing cops on the night shift dreaming of being like Hunter, the TV cop show they watch on their station house TV. The spend their time rounding up stray dogs, a stark contrast to a more recent film, Cala, My Dog. Her subsequent films, though are hard to locate. Railroad of Hope, a festival film from a few years back was her latest, that I know of. I once did a web search and it's possible that she directed some commercial/adverts films for a real estate development project, though I'm not entirely positive.


(She once brought a tough Beijing cop to tears because he couldn't get a scene right, and forbade the crew from comforting the poor public servant until they finished the take.)

Joey Wang's latest film, Shanghai Story (2004) is a part two (?) of a conceived trilogy by Peng Xiaolian, also a woman. I saw this early this year at FilmFest DC and can recommend it.

Winning three awards at China’s prestigious Golden Rooster Awards, Shanghai Story is the moving tale of a family torn apart by China’s Cultural Revolution and the ghosts that continue to haunt them today. A quiet and controversial chronicle of resilience and survival, Peng Xiaolian’s third feature film tells the story of the Kang family, whose lives, like many others, were shattered during the violence and upheaval of the Revolution’s decade-long time span. Years later, their mother’s illness prompts the family’s four adult children to return home. The reunion, however, is anything but joyous; instead, it is a bittersweet unearthing of unresolved questions and old wounds from an unspeakable period of China’s history

The first film in the trilogy is called Once Upon A Time in Shanghai (1998 ).

This is a complex love story of two lovers caught in the political turmoil of Shanghai in 1948, when corruption and inflation paralyzed that city. A Chinese journalist living in America returns to Shanghai to sell his family business and take his fianc¦e back with him to safety. His quest turns out to be not so simple. His fiancee refuses to sell the business and insists on remaining to help build a new China. The film is full of twists and turns in a stylish depiction of the last days of the old China and the first days of the new

Another film directed by Peng is Women's Story (1989)

The plight of Chinese women seen from a woman's point of view. A poignant tale of three peasant women who flee their village to taste freedom in the big city and escape the sexist oppression of rural China. Praised for its feminist viewpoint, Berenice Reynaud calls it "the very stuff every modern woman's life is made of." Special Jury Prize, Paris Women's Film Festival.

Actress turned director Xu Jinglei has turned out some critically acclaimed films:

My Father and I and Letter From An Unknown Woman

Huang Shu-Qing/Huang Shuqin, who directed Fortress Beseiged and Le Peintre/Hua Hun, is I believe a woman, too.

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Also, Li Shaohong: Baober in Love and Blush; Happiness Street, Bloody Morning, and Family Portrait. Stolen Life recently won Best Film at NY's Tribeca's Film Festival.



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I've missed Shanghai Dreams at a film festival. But some people I know didn't miss it and was a bit disppointed. I asked them not to say to much about it because i still want to see it. I liked very much Drifters, the silence, the pace and the way it's shot....

Also, I think now most of those directors of this "generation" (like Jia Zhangke for "The World") start to be not banned and receive the official approvement to shoot their film.

But there are still many films, often shot in digital that continue to be shot independently and without approvement, but they seem to show more what they want and how they want.

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