Sunday, 9 December 2007

"Shanghai Kiss"

Ahhh maybe there is a good side to being sick afterall ;) I get to lie on the couch like a sloth and watch DVDs and have my husband make me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Enjoy it while it lasts I say!!

Despite our ever growing collection of bootleg DVDs we actually don't watch them that often. Anyway, we just finished watching "Shanghai Kiss" and was pleasantly surprised. From the cover I thought it was a cheesy teen movie something akin to Hilary Duff's "Lizzie Maguire".

On the cover was Hayden Panettiere who most people know as the beautiful young blonde girl in "Heroes." I didn't even know who the other actors were in it. I didn't read the blurb on the back of the cover either so I had no preconceived idea of what the heck the film was about.

Without giving too much away I was quite surprised. First of all, the majority of it takes place in L.A., not Shanghai. There is a part that takes place in Shanghai where the protagonist (Ken Leung) is looking out the window and seeing all the dazzling neon lights. I've had a few experiences like that myself. I've found myself looking out the window of a taxi and being amazed and wowed at the beauty that Shanghai has to offer, and imaging myself in a film. There is a similar kind of scene in "Lizzie Maguire" too and many other films. Of course they only portray the beauty of the city and not the ugly side to it. They even managed to make poverty look 'nice' in this film.

I found the first scene particularly comical and easy to relate to. I guess I can say what it's about since it's literally the first scene of the film. The main character, "Liam" is auditioning for a part in a tv commercial. As any Asian actor/ess will tell you, it is particularly hard to get any kind of role when you are in a Western country. I think that the States is actually pretty good and Australia is about 20 years behind, heck probably 50. When was the last time you heard of a famous Australian actor/ess who was Asian? Let's see - there is Nicole Kidman (born in the USA), Naomi Watts (born in England), Mel Gibson (born in USA), Russell Crowe (born in New Zealand). All caucasian and all funnily enough not even "Australian"! ... However there are lots of American Asian actor/esses..

On imdb the director, David Ren, says this:

Shanghai Kiss is an autobiographical story and a film that is very personal to me. Some of you have commented on the lack of Asian male leads in American films that are not in the action/martial arts genre. This is especially true for love stories. This is because Hollywood doesn't think America is ready to accept an Asian male as a romantic lead.

There isn't a great deal I can say about the movie without giving too much of the plot away (I really hate people who have to give away spoilers - knowingly or unknowingly - so I won't do it either). However I will say that it explores what it's like to an Asian/Chinese person growing up in a Western country, finding your roots, facing judgements and criticism about 'who' you are, parents/family, love, life, relationships...

Some on imdb have likened it to "Lost in Translation" which I liked but funnily can't remember much of. I think I preferred this film better though. Especially knowing what a small budget they had.

One thing I didn't like about the film was casting Kelly Hu in one of the lead roles. For one thing she's not even Chinese!! She is mixed-race and I doubt she can even speak Mandarin with a convincing accent (which is why she doesn't speak it in the movie except maybe a word or two here or there). I admit I didn't know who she was but knew that she wasn't fully Chinese and that she was reasonably famous. I didn't even think her acting was that good so she was a big disappointment for me.

I thought that Ken and Hayden were both wonderful and played their parts very believably and had a weird chemistry too. I can't believe Ken is 37 and played a 28 year old in the film.

I particularly enjoyed the Shanghai scenes because I was like "I know where that is!" for most of them. I even recognised the Jinjiang amusement park even though I've never been there (but read about it and seen pics of it). I've not felt that excited since the movie "Looking for Alibrandi" came out. That's one of my favourite films and set in Sydney. I think I could pick just about every location used in that film. Someone on imdb commented on why in "Shanghai Kiss" does he go from Pudong, to Puxi and then back to Pudong and of course we all know that geographical realism does not exist in films!!

In one of my husband and I's family films "Before Sunrise"/"Before Sunset" we actually found where the filming locations were and went to seek them out when we went to Vienna/Paris. It's hilarious when you think about how the heck they could've gotten from A to B to C to D... in such a short space of time and why they kept backtracking and criss-crossing all over the city!

Lastly, there was the issue of a large age gap in a relationship. I have to admit I try to keep an open mind for others but 1)I could never do it myself and 2)When it's over 10 years I start to feel it's getting a bit weird and when it's 20 years different well that's just freaky because it's a whole new 'generation'. However, this movie gave me insight on what it's actually like to feel love for someone who is so much younger/older than you are...

Anyway this is not a movie review as such other to say I really enjoyed the film. Go and see if it you can! (after reading the spiel by the director I kinda feel guilty about having an 'illegal' copy now :( ) There were some particularly comical parts and some weird parts which we both found very amusing. I just wanted to get out a mish mash of thoughts which probably don't make sense to anyone other than myself! Well my excuse is that I feel exhausted, my chest is congested, my head is dizzy and stuffy, I'm constantly hungry, I'm cold, I'm hot.. argh!

P.S. This scene which takes place in a laundromat is one of my faves. If you watch it it doesn't really give away too much either. (basically what you read in the 'blurb' anyway).

and here is the trailer

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