Shanghai Triad

on December 20, 1995 by by
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   Won Technical Prize. In this gangster film set in 1930s Shanghai, exotic cabaret singer Xiao Jinbao (Gong Li) finds herself skirted away to an island hideaway when a violent shootout threatens the crime world dominance of her mobster boyfriend (Li Bao-Tian).
   With her is Shuisheng (Wang Xiao Xiao), a 14-year-old boy, who becomes her servant and the audience's eyes. Though he is utterly naive and allows Jinbao to humiliate him for his inexperience, Shuisheng is entranced by her beauty and soon drawn into the web of crime and violence. Witnessing for the first time the mounting cruelty and ruthlessness of the Triad gangs, Shuisheng learns to fend for himself and makes crucial decisions about whom to save and how to escape the deadly crime world.
   What stands out most in "Shanghai Triad" is the central performance of Gong Li. Rapturously beautiful, she plays the singer with a veneer of vanity that belies a desperate insecurity. At only 30, she is one of China's most prolific leading women, having appeared in the '94 Cannes laureate "Farewell My Concubine," as well as Zhang Yimou's "Ju Dou," "Raise the Red Lantern" and "To Live."
   The action at times is stilted, and the film never goes as far as it might have in exploring the complex relationships among the characters. However, it boasts a compelling period look, thanks to cinematographer Lu Yue, who has lit the film beautifully. The film's shimmering amber hues and superior production values, impossible to forget, earned it the technical award at Cannes. Starring Gong Li, Li Bao-Tian and Wang Xiao Xiao. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Written by Bi Fei Yu. Produced by Jean Louis Piel. A Sony Classics release. Drama. Chinese-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 109 min
Tags: Gong Li, Li Bao-Tian, Wang Xiao Xiao, Zhang Yimou, Bi Fei Yu, Jean Louis Piel, Sony Classics, Drama, chinese, Shanghai, Xiiao Jinbao, Shuisheng, crime
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