Zhang Yimou's Shanghai Triad

  • Yvonne Ng


Just when it seemed as if every variety of the gangster genre had been played out, Mainland Chinese director Zhang Yimou sprang a pleasant surprise with his film Shanghai Triad (Yao a yao yao dao wai po qiao, 1995). The film is probably the last collaboration between the director and Gong Li, the leading actress in all his previous films(1) and his off-screen partner until the completion of this film. Few gangster movies have been made in recent years that equal the film in its freshness, style, intelligence, sensual and lyrical beauty. However, in his interview with Zhang at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, Nigel Andrews reported that Zhang's latest film had been indifferently received by critics who thought no more of it than "just a gangster film" and a mere waste of the director's talent(2). Though under-appreciated as a gangster film, Shanghai Triad's merit has not been totally ignored....