In the early 1990s, I ran a business partly based in Shanghai and I often stayed at the Peace Hotel. Its elegant art deco interior was strange and incongruent to the roughness of emerging China I saw traveling across the country. Its splendour seemed a tiny fragment of something gone and forgotten yet at that time it had only been sixty years since Chinese couples had danced the quick step in tails and black tie. The hotel was one of the central venues for a scene which over eighty years later is still the source of half-remembered stories and tall tales passed through the generations.
Shanghai nurtured some of the most elegant and sophisticated minds in China. To many Chinese, for there are many different dialect groups, the Shanghainese have always stood out as the most urbane and refined, if perhaps sometimes rather haughty, community in China.
I wanted to explore different Chinese lives hopefully creating a story and characters that would describe to westerners a different time and situation which shows a different side to people facing changes and confronting their individuality. This period of Chinese history seemed the right setting for the book.
This trailer places the story and is intended to give readers and viewers a better idea of that time and the radical changes that China and Chinese people experienced and pursued. The footage is largely taken from the archives at the British Film Institute, I also used some of this in my documentary on hip hop in China, Follow Your Heart : China’s New Youth Movement in 2007. The direction of the trailer was largely chronological. Kate Kun was editor.
I chose this passage as it captures both the saddest and happiest moments of Feng’s life. It is the most loving and tender moment she experiences yet it had no future and is alive only in her telling and re-telling.
My direction for this trailer was telling the scene as Feng might remember or see it in her imagination or dreams. I believe that reflecting on it later in her life, Feng would understand and see the sensuality between herself and Bi. Picturing herself at her most beautiful, even though this was not as she was at the time of the encounter, I liked the idea that she might visualize herself as Bi had looked at her, gazing slowly and closely at her, trying to remember everything, drawn to her lips, eyes, hair, arms and breasts.
The direction of visual movement therefore was slow tracking across the actress’, Yura’s, face, lips and hair down her arms and chest reflecting how Bi would have looked at her.
She would remember Bi more fully though, seeing his whole features. Kate Kun filmed this and did a beautiful job and edited it as we had discussed adding some nice touches such as Bi’s clenched hands, the radio at the end and the falling petals. I am grateful to Margaret Cheung who gave Feng an English voice which is emotional and distinct but still feels Chinese.
The cutting between shots needed to be sharp and immediate pushing the relationship between the two characters forward and increasing the physical intensity.