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'90s Shanghai blooms on the small screen

Popular TV drama directed by the legendary Wong Kar-wai is both love song and nostalgic salute to city and era, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-02 09:07

A poster for the series.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Considered by some critics as Wong's love letter to Shanghai, the city shot through his lens evokes a feeling that is both familiar and fresh. While showing landmarks like the Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower, the drama also presents Shanghai's cityscape in a brighter and more radiant manner, as if the city has been burnished by the memory of someone who loves it deeply.

In an early promotional video, the 65-year-old Wong said that he had been born in Shanghai before moving to Hong Kong with his parents later. Having visited the city constantly over the past few decades, he has reconnected with many relatives, including his elder brother, sister, and over 20 cousins, and this experience became a driving force behind producing the drama.

For Hu Ge, who was born in Shanghai and graduated from the Shanghai Theatre Academy, the drama provided an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the city where he grew up and lived, he said during a recent seminar in Beijing.

"When I was reading Jin's novel, I wondered if I really was a Shanghai native. It seemed that my impression of the city was a bit shallow and one-sided," Hu says, explaining that he would even look online when asked by friends from other cities to recommend restaurants or things to buy.

Mentioning that many readers view the novel as an encyclopedia of Shanghai, Hu said that he feels that his perception of Shanghai has now become more three-dimensional, and he can understand the lives lived by his parents' generation.

Buxiang, a phrase that means "keeping silent" and which represents the concept of keeping a low profile in the Shanghai dialect, is one of the most frequently heard phrases in the drama. Ironically, the show's popularity has caused the phrase to make a loud splash, as some fans on major review sites like Douban, where Wong's drama has received a rating of 8.5 out of 10, have commented.


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