East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Shanghai Express

Poster - Shanghai Express_06It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.

Roger Ebert called this line from Joseph von Sternberg‘s Shanghai Express “a masterpiece of understatement”.

Von Sternberg went to Shanghai, in order to research this movie. He described his experiences in a book called Fun in a Chinese Laundry.
Weird chap, that von Sternberg guy.

The story is set on the Shanghai-Beijing Express, in the thirties, as was and revolution rage across China.
But war and revolution are not as shocking, for the travelers on this train, than the presence among them of notorious prostitute Shanghai Lil.

Then one of them finds out she’s his former girlfriend. Continue reading


The Shanghai Gesture


Our story has nothing to do with the present.

There is this card, at the very beginning of Joseph von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture – a simple card, that shifts the action of this unusual pulpish noir shot in 1941 from the real world to a parallel dimension.
The card was placed there upon request by the censors – that were afraid the movie could have some bad effects on the morale of the men fighting in the Pacific.
It was 1941.

That card is one – but only one – of the many elements that make it one of the films I like to re-watch.
It’s stylish, cruel, as dark and as they come, and wildly exotic.

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