Zhang Yimou, the acclaimed Chinese director of Ju dou, Raise the Red Lantern and The Story of Qiu Ju, spins an epic tale of greed, revenge and lust for power set against the Shanghai opium wars of the 1930’s. The radiant Gong Li stars as Xiao, the most beautiful singer and prostitute in Shanghai, who becomes a pawn in the struggle between the powerful gang leader and his deputy, who schemes to take control of the city’s underworld activities. –Sony Pictures Classics
Zhang Yimou is one of the best-known directors of the Chinese Fifth Generation and one of the most influential and widely respected filmmakers working today. Zhang was born in 1950, in the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, to a future in Communist China that seemed unpromising; his father was an officer in Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Army and one of his brothers was accused of being a spy, while another fled to Taiwan. During the 1950s, his family’s background was suspect and during the convulsive tumult of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, it was criminal. Zhang was pulled out of high school and sent to toil with the peasants. Later, he transferred to a textile factory. While working there, Zhang reportedly sold his own blood to buy his first camera.
In 1978, at the age of 27, Zhang passed the entrance exam for the Beijing Film Academy but was rejected on account of his age. After an appeal to the Ministry of Culture, however, he was enrolled in the B.F.A.‘s class of 1982… read more
Zhang Yimou's very visual eye is present here in spades. Just beautiful to look at. it's light on story but entertaining enough. I liked how little information we were given about the affairs of the gangsters, considering the story was told from the lowest ranking member, as it made the ending more effective. Not a great movie, but pretty good. Astounding cinematography and production design make it worth watching.
The disorientation of Shanghai for the rural peasant - quintessential Chinese dichotomy - implies coming-of-age; the musky period reconstruction, Bertolucci aesthetic homage: bespoke suits in illuminated hues, dynamically rendered. An underlying humanity grants an edge over The Conformist’s abjectness, tangibly rendering the lushness - Gong the von Sternbergian Dietrich figure; charismatic femme. Deftly assembled - supreme mise en scene, the whole work rather an exotic cabaret, of not only light, sound and movement, but a darkened humanism underneath.