Chinese Movie Review The film Shanghai Triad by Zhang Yimou is a Chinese production made in 1995 to a mixed reception. The director had produced other hit films before he engaged in the Shanghai Triad film project. He had set the target high for other production such as the To Live and Red Sorghum. Though the director had experience making other successful film, the Shanghai Triad was a dip in quality thus fails to rank high as an exceptional movie. However, the director shows great historical accuracy in depicting the state of affairs in Shanghai during the time.
Essential, the movie follows the story of a crime lord (Tang) in Shanghai during in the1930s and his singer mistress (Xiao Jingbao) as revealed gradually by their new boy servant (Shuisheng). The boy servant provides the point of view in the movies, often detailing the dynamics off the relationship between the powerful triad boss and his unpredictable mistress. In all aspects, crime is involved in acquiring power and making it in life. Shuiseng uncle (also a city criminal) is the one that links him up with the opportunity to work for the triad boss after getting him from the countryside.
In the cause of working for the crime boss, he becomes accustomed to the happenings of the crime world such as seeing executions, hearing disturbing conversations and noticing the struggles of eth boss in making his mistress conform to his will. This gangster movie plotline presents the crime scene in Shanghai during the early years but fails to bring something unique to the audience. The viewers are likely to see it as pointless and repetitive when they compare the film with other works in the gangster Chinese movies.
The movie was made after the Chinese authorities ensured that there was no external funding. Production would only go ahead after falling under the local production category. This means that the movie was funded locally. This was an effort to ensure that the external sources did not influence the plot to paint a bad image of the Chinese authorities in its communist ways.
Though there is no heavy use of stereotypes, the film nevertheless alludes to a particular political message that concerns the nature of the pre-revolutionary Shanghai and China in general. It depicts the lawlessness that was in China at the time rendering crime as a way to active power and stakes a claim in the society. Zhang Yimou manages to insert the social effect the criminal underworld and point to the larger problem in the Chinese society.
The Forbidden Kingdom is presumably targeted for the U.S audience since its production is also in the same country. The display of Chinese characters reflects their ability to rise by use of Martial arts or any other means in a time of oppression. The theme of suppression by a higher authority is evident in both types of films but the film made in China reflects more accuracy because it does not have a bias. Most of the American made Chinese movies have a certain amount of bias to appease the American audience.
Overall, the Shanghai Triad thrives in historical accuracy but lacks the awe factor. It shows the usual happenings of a crime syndicate plainly but takes a cut on the entertainment value. However, it’s an average movie worth watching for enlightenment of pre-revolutionary Shanghai.
Shanghai Triad. Dir. Zhang Yimou. Perf. Gong Li, Li Baotian, Wang Xiao Xiao. .1995. Sony Pictures Classics, 1995. Film.