Shanghai’s amazing twenty years

27 Sep

Jim Belshaw has a great picture of the Pudong area taken from his hotel room just a week or so ago: Visiting China 4 – out with the old, in with the new. M is in Shanghai at the moment visiting family; he left the city in 1989. He has been back several times.

To capture Shanghai as it was when M left one can do worse than watch one of my favourite movies, Empire of the Sun (1987). Little had changed in Shanghai up to 1987, so Spielberg was able to film Shanghai 1987 as Shanghai in 1937/1941 with just a few cosmetic changes and much cooperation from the city authorities and the People’s Liberation Army: “It was the first American film shot in Shanghai since the 1940s.”


M recalls seeing the movie being made. On the other hand, the luxurious houses of the British quarter had been so adapted for other purposes by then that Spielberg had to film those sequences in London where, according to J G Ballard who wrote the book based on his own childhood, there were houses exactly like those his family had known in Shanghai.

Those are long, but well worth seeing. It is a “Making of” documentary about Empire of the Sun; it is also on the DVD of the movie. Excellent. Includes much about Shanghai in 1987, and much of J G Ballard himself. The book has often been on the NSW HSC, and I always enjoyed teaching it.

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Posted by on September 27, 2008 in Chinese and China, Jim Belshaw, M, movies


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