August 29 2016 Drama Movies Newsletter
“There are a lot of male roles, but not a lot of female roles. There are a lot of great actresses in the US and there aren’t enough roles for them. It’s even hard for them to get a good female role, never mind a Chinese actress. How do you integrate that into the script? That’s very hard. How do you mix a Chinese actor with a group of foreigners? It’s not easy.” Actress Gong Li on working in American film
Gong Li has been one of my favorite actresses since the early 1990s, when her Chinese films "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991), "Farewell My Concubine" (1993), and "Shanghai Triad" (1995) were released to great acclaim in the US. Considering her English-language films, "Chinese Box" (1997), directed by Wayne Wang and co-starring Jeremy Irons, is her most complex. "Chinese Box" is set in Hong Kong which solves the problem Gong Li alludes to above, mixing Chinese actors with an international cast.
"Shanghai", which I review this week, is also set in an international city. Some of the other on-line reviews of "Shanghai" disparage John Cusack (saying he is no leading man) or they tend to say that Gong Li's talents are wasted in her role. I absolutely agree that both actors have made better movies. There are times, however, when you just want to enjoy watching beautiful people, wearing beautiful clothes, in a beautiful setting. The production design, and the fact that "Shanghai" was shot on 35mm film, made the film worthwhile for me. The lush soundtrack, composed by Klaus Badelt and featuring virtuoso pianist Lang Lang, was also a bonus.
Additionally, I watched "Amour Fou" (2014) this week, written and directed by Jessica Hausner. Based on the real-life double suicide of writer Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel in 1811, it is a tightly-controlled and visually intelligent film. Hausner's approach, however, is to view her two main characters with ironic detachment. She is so distanced from Heinrich and Henriette (literally as well as figuratively, there are barely any close-ups) that it is difficult to feel any emotion as these two move toward the inevitable.
Here's the latest article from the Drama Movies site at BellaOnline.com.
Shanghai Film Review
A throwback to the classic Hollywood style of "Casablanca" and "Shanghai Express", this film is a romantic espionage thriller starring John Cusack as an intelligence officer who investigates the murder of his best friend, and in doing so, stumbles across the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor.
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Angela K. Peterson, Drama Movies Editor
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