IN 1930’S SHANGHAI VIOLENCE WAS NOT THE PROBLEM. IT WAS THE SOLUTION.
In 1930’s Shanghai, a 14-year old boy becomes a servant to singer Xiao Jinbao (Gong Li), who is also a prominent triad leader’s mistress. I bet director Zhang Yimou saw his share of Scorsese films before taking on the Asian version of the Cosa Nostra, but he also seems to have studied classic gangster movies from the ‘30s and then carefully transformed that ambience to China. Unfortunately, the boy who should be the central character in the story gets lost somewhere in the film’s execution, but the movie still knows how to tell a story about interesting people rather than wallow in violence. Gong Li is great as the triad boss’ saucy virago of a mistress.
1995-China-France. 110 min. Color. Produced by Yves Marmion, Jean-Louis Piel, Wu Yigong. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Screenplay: Bi Feiyu. Cinematography: Lu Yue. Cast: Gong Li (Xiao Jinbao), Li Baotian (Tang), Wang Xiao Xiao (Tang Shuisheng), Li Suejian, Shun Chun.
Trivia: Original title: Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao.
Last word: “Today’s Chinese society has changed a lot. Many people have different ideas and aspirations, but quite a few think only about money and material possessions – urban people especially run after money and material things. The luxurious mansion and life in ‘Shanghai Triad’ is connected with this change in China. Yet after they are sated with material goods, what is it that people need the most? The role of Shuisheng in the film represents something more pure and innocent.” (Zhang, “Zhang Yimou: Interviews”)