Monday, March 04, 2013

Shanghai Express

Sunday evening I joined a friend to see Shanghai Express, part of a series of Pre-Code double features playing at The Roxie this week. Programmer Elliot Lavine enthusiastically introduced the film to a vocal audience of film buffs. The movie stars Marlene Dietrich & was directed by Joseph von Sternberg. Its corny story of simmering passions & political intrigue takes place largely in the close confines of a train peopled by characters resembling the suspects in an Agatha Christie mystery. There is a bit of suspense in the movie's middle section, when the passengers are taken hostage by Chinese rebels. Dietrich's flamboyant outfits sometimes make her resemble an exotic, non-human creature. She is especially captivating in a shot when she looks through a window with her hand pressed on the pane & in another scene when she smokes a cigarette with a trembling hand. Her love interest, Clive Brook, is wooden, but it is nice to see Anna May Wong, as an enigmatic high-class prostitute, hold her own against Dietrich. The film's Chinese characters seem to be speaking Cantonese, which doesn't make sense for a train traveling between Beijing & Shanghai.

§ Shanghai Express
Joseph von Sternberg, dir.
80 mins., USA,  1932

§ Hollywood Before The Code: Deeper, Darker, Nastier!!
Friday, March 1 - Thursday, March 7
The Roxie

No comments: