Director: Xianlian Peng (2004)
Shanghai Story, which was completed in 2004 but finally released on September 15 is about a family in Shanghai that suffers during the Cultural Revolution.
The Kang family was once well-off, owning a garden house in Shanghai, until catastrophe befell them in the late 1960s.
The four adult children of the family are now scattered and residing in three places: Shanghai, Inner Mongolia and San Francisco. When the mother is suddenly hospitalized, the children return to see her. The family reunion, however, is anything but a happy event: the four siblings are unable to even have one peaceful dinner together, and the mother herself has serious matters to settle with all of them.
Shanghai Story demonstrates how love, trust and communication become so difficult for family members under the shadow of the "revolution." However, the way that the director narrates the story is unsatisfactory. The film spends too much time showing Shanghai residents' daily life, which has no relation with its theme and make the whole film look like a documentary or tourism promotion film.
The question that the movie raises is poignant: A historical disaster may come to an end, but people may not be able to forgive each other. However, the director treats such conflicts as simple quarrels. The quarrels make the characters look childish and ridiculous, and the monologues after a quarrel to confess their concern is sickening.
The story is narrated by the mother, and other family members just sit there and listen. Like reading a novel rather than watching a movie, the audience needs to image what happened in the past with words.
The whole story is plain and the structure is not well organized.
The only redeeming point in the 100-minute movie is Joey Wong, once a top actress in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unfortunately, Wong announced last Saturday that she would quit acting, and this would be her last film.
(Shenzhen Daily September 21, 2005)