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SHANGHAI DREAMS

Director: WANG XIAOSHUAIND

CHINA • 2005 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY STEREO SR • 123 MIN


WITH CHINESE CINEMA’S ONE-TIME ICONOCLASTS LIKE ZHANG YIMOU AND CHEN KAIGE NOW SEEMINGLY DEVOTING THEIR TIME TO LAVISH SWORDPLAY EPICS, THE SPOTLIGHT INSTEAD SHIFTS TO THE ‘URBAN GENERATION’ WHO’VE ARRIVED IN THEIR WAKE AND LARGELY KEPT THE FOCUS ON THE REALITIES OF CHINESE LIFE, EVEN IF IT HASN’T ALWAYS ENDEARED THEM TO THE BEIJING CENSORS.
With the Golden Lion at Venice last month for Zia Zhangke’s Still Life following the Jury Prize at Cannes for this portrait of internal exile, international profile is clearly building for China’s newest wave. Inspired by the experiences of his own parents, Wang Xiaoshuai’s Shanghai Dreams traces one of the families dispatched during the Cultural Revolution from Shanghai to the remote Guizhou province as a purported ‘Third Line of Defence’ against potential Soviet incursion. It’s set in 1983, when Wu Zemin (Yan Anlian, superb) has spent over a decade in this backwater and his frustration at not being able to return home is affecting his relationship with teenage daughter Qinghong (Gao Yuanyuan)—he’s determined she should study for her exams, and is seriously unimpressed by the attentions she’s attracting from a local factory worker. It’s a portrait of generational conflict which could be played out anywhere in the world, but what makes this special is not just Wang’s beautifully composed storytelling, but the way political pressures implicitly take their toll on personal lives—since the father’s struggle against institutionalised authority has ironically made him just as repressive in his own household. Slow-burning, potently involving stuff, and just wait till you see the Boney M dance number! —Trevor Johnston.

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