Report2018.04.22Please Remember Me an Homage to Shanghai

The final day of the 10th Okinawa International Movie Festival, April 22nd, kicked off with a morning screening of Peng Xiaolian’s homage to Shanghai, Please Remember Me at the Sakurazaka Theater in Naha. Despite unspooling at 1040am the theater was packed with viewers eager to see Ms. Peng’s latest work. The respected auteur has directed such previous features as Wild Swans and Shanghai Story.

This complex effort depicts what it’s like to live in contemporary Shanghai while also paying tribute to the city’s illustrious past and questioning the meaning and worth of being a movie star. On top of all that it’s also a touching love story. Ah Mei (Jia Yiping) is a cinematographer in Shanghai who dedicates his life to low-budget projects and efforts that recall the glory of Shanghai’s film industry before the Revolution. He’s forced to live in a rundown shikumen (old style Chinese house down a narrow lane) that is threatened with destruction. Indeed all the other tenants have left. His life is shaken up when Cia Yun (Feng Wenjuan), a pretty actress from his small home city, turns up. She has dreams of becoming a big star in Shanghai but is dismayed to learn Ah Mei isn’t interested in high-profile projects. Cia also seems to have romantic intent toward Ah Mei, who lives in a world of images and historical cinema.

The pic is successful on many levels. We get a strong feeling of what living in megalopolis of Shanghai with no money is like; how the historic structures are being demolished; and what people do for success in the film industry. But at the same time the work acts as a dialogue on what it means to be a “star”; how good people were abused during the culture revolution; and how Shanghai has forgotten its elegant and triumphant past. It even includes an actress from the pre-Revolutionary period playing herself and many old film clips from that time. Finally the slow-burning love story is both moving and bittersweet.

Before the screening Director Peng addressed the crowd. “Legendary actress Huang Zongying was 90 years old when I made this film and I wanted to depicted a contemporary story in Shanghai in parallel with the pre-Revolutionary history of the city.”