I’m sure that many other people liked Gong Li and/or Leslie Cheung, but I was actually rather taken by the story. It starts with the children around 1911 (at the fall of the Qin emperor), and goes through the period of opium. Most of the movie takes place during the 1920s, with a sharp contrast between the village and Shanghai — which had western dress, modern buildings, telephone and streetcars.
In the movie, there’s a phrase something like “don’t you know what’s happened in the last ten years”? The opening of China must have been amazing. In addition to opium use, the movie also depicted prostitution and gangsters, so I’m probably just as happy to be now in middle class Canada.
This movie also reminds me that I really enjoyed The Last Emperor, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and released in 1987. I remember buying (probably in 1987 or 1988) and reading Twilight in the Forbidden City by Reginald Johnson. Pu Yi was the ruling emperor between 1908 and 1912, and non-ruling emperor between 1912 and 1924, so the times on these two movies overlap.
When I was in Shanghai in summer 2002, I visited the former residence of Dr. Sun Yat Sen — where he lived between 1918 and 1925. In touring the house, I was impressed on how modern it was, with electric lighting and indoor plumbing. I could have been quite comfortable, living there.
Since I’m not into doing more reading, I’m now trolling for other movies that happen in this period of Chinese history ….