Definitely my least favorite of the Dietrich-Sternberg features, as the director makes the fatal mistake of spending too much time with the other, far less interesting passengers on the titular train in a strangely inert story. Still, it helps a good deal that Anna May Wong is just as captivating as her co-star and that Oscar-winning chiaroscuro cinematography is still as luscious as can be.
The combination of two actresses of blazing potency, bits of smart (and smarting) dialogue from Furthman's script, the photography (which we must attribute to both Lee Garmes and von Sternberg), radical cutting, and of course the busy mise-en-scène, mean that SHANGHAI EXPRESS found me w/ my jaw regularly gaping. You wouldn't think it possible, but von Sternberg takes his peerless work w/ light to a whole new level.
Dietrich was more herself in Wilder's "A Foreign Affair," and she gave a more captivating performance in the Borzage/Lubitsch "Desire," but in "Shanghai Express" she was at her most ironic. There has never been and there will never be anyone like her. This film was very influential and you can still see why.
Ese tema de la mujer inmolándose por el honor de su amado es común en el melodrama de los 30. De pronto es repetitivo salvo por la ambientación. Lo mejor de "El expreso de Shanghai" está para cuando la tormenta política pasó e inicia el tormento melodramático; el personaje de Dietrich encerrándose entre la penumbra y sufriendo en silencio. Gran escena. Es lo mejor de toda la película.
After an underwhelming run of catching up on this year's Oscar contenders, it was refreshing to revisit a classic of pre-Code Hollywood weirdness. Don't go into a Sternberg movie expecting an airtight tale of intrigue. His method is more to drop a woman like Marlene Dietrich—not to mention Anna May Wong—into the middle of a flimsy plot whose action is ostensibly driven by (much less interesting) men. A wet nightmare.
Von Sternberg and Dietrich's collaborations have been such a great revelation for me. Working through them chronologically we see the evolution of style for both. Von Sternberg placing many of the world's major players in a microcosm where doors are constantly being opened and closed and communication between people is often confused. Playing on the time's strict moral codes using faith and trust as its vessels.