Shanghai Calling – A Movie About Expats for Expats in Shanghai

Splash page from the official website

I’m going to come right and say it , Shanghai Calling isn’t a great movie. It’s a decent movie , maybe even a good movie , but great it ain’t. If you want to see an example of what I consider to be a great movie set in China check out the amazing Red Light Revolution

Usually the Romantic Comedy genre isn’t quite for me, although it can be worth a few laughs. What the movie makes up for in plot and believability is the setting – Shanghai. You can tell the writers have a love for the city and want to show it off, and that is what saves the movie for me. Actually filmed in Shanghai ,apparently quite hard to get filming permission , I loved picking out sites that I knew , ” Hey that’s Southern Belle!” ” I had drinks there for St.Patty’s!” “Ohh that’s the coffee shop I used to go after classes on Friday!” and just marveling in the cinematic sweeps of the Pudong Skyline that were so popular in the movie. The best part of the setting for me was thinking that one of the main’s characters’ , Fang Fang , family’s neighborhood looked quite familiar , and then confirming it when an address sign appeared. 162 JianGuo Xi Rd! I knew it! It’s Bu Gao Li, the old style Shanghai Shikumen neighborhood that lies directly next to my apartment. Seriously. That was awesome. Maybe not so much for others. I just wished Fang Fang really lived there. She’s so hot!

Fang Fang’s bio from the Shanghai Calling website

Another thing that made the movie enjoyable were some of the jokes that I could definitely relate too , myself being an expat in Shanghai .

Construction on the apartment next to yours at 8am? Check.

Waitresses continuing to speak only with your Chinese friend even after you’ve (non-Asian) proved yourself capable of speaking Chinese? Check.

Funny Aiyi? (maid) Of course!

Foreign Actors being hired to impersonate a Lawyer or Businessman? Check.

Cute little blonde hair , blue-eyed , girl preferring to speak Chinese? Yes! I especially like this one with my experiences at the Kindergarten. ( This one little Caucasian is much more confident with Chinese and will address me (another foreigner) in Chinese. Hahaha.

Some of the stuff in the movie was strange and I didn’t quite get it.

English teacher (and one who is fond of calling off) buying a brand new Cadillac as his ride? How the hell did that happen? I can only dream of getting a nice car on my salary, and then I would be too terrified to drive something nice in the chaotic traffic.

The main characters running into each other on the Bund’s promenade two or three times? True it gives the cameras an excuse to do another panoramic of the Pudong Skyline but seriously of those who live in Shanghai , how often do you make that riverside walk? That is a complete tourist thing to do. Sure I’ve made the walk plenty of times , when I was showing my visiting friends and family ! I think I would be a bit hard pressed to take a date there.

So, If you happen to be interested in the city of Shanghai itself , get a glimpse of expat life, or like romantic comedies (:/) check it out.

It’s only showing in the movies theatres in China right now ,and in an ironic twist straight from the movie’s main plot is also available in our pirated DVD shops. (Barely opened in the theaters , that was fast!) Keep an eye out for it in upcoming American, European , and Asian film festivals.

Red Light Revolution

Last night I went over to Kento’s Live House , a really nice venue nearby my house, to go check out a screening of Australian director,Sam Voutas’, Red Light Revolution. (Mandarin audio with English subtitles)

The movie is a hilarious take on an out of luck former Beijing cab-driver trying to open a sex shop to make some cash. His wife has just left him for another guy , he has lost his house , his cab was re-possessed , and he is penniless.  He bumps into a former schoolmate of his who made some cash off peddling sex toys and this leads to a meeting with a crazy Japanese investor. He along with his new-found female friend open a shop in the middle of a conservative hutong neighborhood. Hijinks ensue as the neighborhood comes out at night to visit the store. I don’t want to give anymore anyway.

Red Light Revolutions had me laughing pretty much the entire way through (except for some serious parts where you aren’t supposed to). Everything from the witty banter between the characters , to the gentle making fun of Chinese social issues (one scene dealt with bureaucracy and the characters had to fill out a form to gain access to the form for a business license), to the slapstick with the toys (c’mon it’s too hard not to!) , to the characters themselves (The Community Patrol Leader , and geeky Virgin Chen are my favorites) , are all spot on.

Even though the film was directed by a foreigner it doesn’t feel like it and offers a glimpse into Beijing life. The directors and producers are both long time residents of Beijing and worked closely with the Chinese cast and crew to ensure an authentic experience.

The director , producer , and the main female star were on hand to host a Q&A after the film and they gave us some great insight into the filming process. They worked closely with the actors and crew to make an authentic dialogue. Obviously Chinese isn’t the directors native language (although he can speak it quite well) so he gave the actors reign to make a more natural script ,  and also the film crew would sometimes stop and say ” no. no, not that way , try it like this instead”.

They also provided interesting insights into the process of marketing and releasing the movie. They had tried for over two years to gain access to movie theaters in China but were rejected by the government censors. They(censors) just didn’t understand the point of the movie . They were flat-out told that this wasn’t a comedy and why is the movie being held in a sex shop , maybe they could perhaps host it in a tea shop? The government rejection leading to the small film screenings and the movie doing the foreign indie film rounds (Where they have won quite a few awards). The movie should be available for purchase on DVD and maybe iTunes after January.

If you are in Shanghai there is still time to catch two other movie screenings , Friday Nov. 11 & Sunday Nov. 13. Check out this link for more details  http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/event/Film-Film_Screenings/4706/Red-Light-Revolution-screening-weekend.html .

Here is a link for the trailer

www.traileraddict.com/trailer/redlightrevolution/trailer

As an extra bonus the first 50 to 100 people will receive (received in my case) a free giftbag with some sexy lotion and a fun little toy. Enjoy!