Lecture 4. Shanghai in Cinema (Part 2)

created by:

Vandana Baweja


from the module:

Global Cities in Cinema

The second part of this lecture presents how films represent Shanghai’s current global status, the historic globalization processes that have shaped the city, and the tensions between high-end and low-end globalization processes, using four films—Skyfall (2012, English Directed by Sam Mendes), Meili xin shijie [Beautiful New World] (1999, Directed by Shi Runjiu), Yima de houxiandai shenghuo [The Postmodern Life of My Aunt] (2006, Directed by Ann Hui), and Suzhou he [Suzhou River] (2000, Directed by Lou Ye). The lecture begins by examining how Skyfall (2012, English Directed by Sam Mendes) represents Shanghai as a glitzy skyscraper city, in a perpetual present, and purged of the historic processes that have shaped the city. Meili xin shijie [Beautiful New World] (1999) is set in the context of the 1990s consumer revolution and the intense transformation of Shanghai through which the old city was torn down to build new skyscrapers. It is the story of two people Zhang Baogen and Jin Fang who aspire to be consumers of this new world that is transforming Shanghai. They have been left at the margins of this consumer revolution and globalization processes that have created the glossy Shanghai that we see in Skyfall. Thus, Meili xin shijie [Beautiful New World] shows the globalization of Shanghai is an uneven process in which the benefits of globalization for the elite few create social chasms that can be hard to bridge. Yima de houxiandai shenghuo [The Postmodern Life of My Aunt] (2006, Directed by Ann Hui), represents Shanghai as an urban palimpsest, where drastic changes of political ideologies have resulted in radical transformation of architecture and urbanism. Consequently, the characters constantly wander through older layers of Shanghai juxtaposed with the new. The filmic representation of architecture and urbanism in The Postmodern Life of My Aunt depicts fragmentation and layering as visual tropes that spatialize how the characters navigate the city. Suzhou he [Suzhou River] (2000, Directed by Lou Ye) represents how tensions between high-end and low-end globalization processes, have shaped the Suzhou River Bank. In the film, the river functions as a metaphor for globalization. It establishes Shanghai’s identity as the treaty port that brought China into contact with international trade. The film signifies how global trade is closely tied to the globalization of culture.


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