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April 1996, Week 1


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Apr 1996 12:44:19 -0600
text/plain (52 lines)
I haven't seen too much commentary on Zhang Yimou's SHANGHAI TRIAD, so
thought I'd forward these remarks from a colleague of mine, who saw it
with some people from China.  I hope they're of interest!
>First of all, the reason the government objected, my Chinese friend
>postulates, is the depiction of the relationship among the Boss and
>the two right hand men (Lao Yi and Lao Er, Old one and old two inChinese).
>As he's about to be killed, Lao Er tells the boss that an old man
>shouldn't be running things, and if he himself were in charge, things
>would be much better and more profitable.  A Chinese audience would take
>this to mean that younger men should be controlling the Party, not old
>guys like Zhang Zemin (President of China) and the current Prime Minister,
>both of whom are from Shanghai no less.
>"burying alive" of Lao Er is symbolic of the deposing of Zhao Ziyang
>after Tiananment Square.  Once stripped of his power as Party Secretary
>by Deng, he too was "buried alive"--alive, but as good as dead politically.
>The Boss says that after he has Lao Er killed, he will go back to Shanghai
>and blame Lao Er's death on Fat Yu and take revenge.  This is also standard
>Party maneuvering.
>I found these readings extremely interesting and convincing.  So in addition
>to being a great gangster film, there is this distinctly Chinese layer.
>Did you see, for instance, the parallel between the end of the film
 (relationship between the Boss and the little girl) and the end of CHINATOWN
>between Noah Cross and his grandaughter)?  Surely Zhang Yimou has seen
>this film and also THE GODFATHER.
>My friend also told me that the lyrics to the song that Gong Li sings that
>the Boss and Fat Yu so much like are much more vulgar and explicit in
>Chinese than the English translation in the subtitles has it.  Hmmm.
For my own part, I'll add that I think the film deserved Best Cinematography
far more than BRAVEHEART at the Oscars.  It should also have at least had a
Sound nomination.  This film has more sonic *presence* (from the sudden ring
of a phone to the crackle of a lit match to rose petals being crumpled!) than
any film I've seen in recent years!
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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