Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

A music video that I made about desperate living in Shanghai in the 1930's. Shanghai was one of the world's hotspots for jazz music and also for other hybrids of Eastern and Western popular culture. A great example of Shanghai's creative power in the Jazz Age is the dress that Ruan Lingyu is wearing in this video. It is a style that was created in Shanghai in the 1920's and is still in use today. It is the lovely cheongsam or qipao dress.

Unfortunately Zhou Xuan and Ruan Lingyu both had very tragic lives. From Wikipedia:

"After introducing "Nightlife in Shanghai" (夜上海), Zhou returned to Shanghai. She spent the next few years in and out of mental institutions owing to frequent breakdowns. Through the years, Zhou led a complicated and unhappy life marked by her failed marriages, illegitimate children and suicide attempts." She died in an institution in Shanghai in 1953 at the age of 39, possibly of encephalitis.

and about Ruan Lingyu:

"Her next film, Shennü (神女, The Goddess, 1934; dir: Wu Yonggang), is often hailed as the pinnacle of Chinese silent cinema, with Ruan's portrayal of a sympathetic prostitute bringing up a child one of the classics of the era. Later that year, Ruan made her penultimate film, New Women (新女性), with director Cai Chusheng, where she played an educated Shanghai woman forced to death by an unfeeling society. A final film, National Custom (國風) was released shortly after her death.

Death - Following the completion of New Women, Ruan's life began to unravel. The film opened in February 1935, Shanghai. Cai Chusheng, under massive pressure from street tabloids, who were retaliating for a scathing depiction of them in New Women, was forced to make extensive cuts to the film. Even then, Ruan's private life was mercilessly seized upon by tabloids and her on-going lawsuit with her first husband became a source of vindictive coverage. Faced with these public issues as well as with intense private problems, Ruan poisoned herself with an overdose of barbiturates in Shanghai on March 8, 1935, at the age of 24. Her released death note apparently contained a line which says "Gossip Is a fearful thing", although some have doubted the note's authenticity. Her funeral procession was reportedly three miles long, with three women committing suicide during the event."

Even though their lives were tragic they left behind profoundly beautiful legacies.

Thanks to ascruffyandscentlade for providing this translation.

夜上海 (Nightlife in Shanghai)
作曲:陳歌辛 (Composer: Chen Gexin)

夜上海 夜上海 Shanghai Nights Shanghai Nights

你是個不夜城 You're a city that never sleeps

華燈起 樂聲響 The pretty lights come on The music sounds

歌舞昇平 Singing and dancing in peace and harmony

只見她笑臉迎 One only sees her, smiling in welcome

誰知她內心苦悶 Who could have known she was feeling dejected on the inside

夜生活 都為了 Shanghai Nights It's all about

衣食住行 The clothes, the food, the board and the travel

酒不醉人人自醉 The wine and women are intoxicating and mesmerizing making it hard to leave and easy to indulge

胡天胡帝蹉跎了青春 Recklessly squandering their youth

曉色朦朧醉眼惺忪 Daybreak blurs the drowsy drunken eyes

大家歸去心靈兒隨著轉動的車輪 Everyone starts to regain their wits, following the turning of the tyres

換一換 新天地 Everything changes up, it's a new world

別有一個新環境 There's a new environment

回味著 夜生活 Thinking back on Night life

如夢初醒 Waking up from the dream

Tech notes:

I edited this video quite a lot and used shots from several movies. There are a few bad edits done in 1934 in "The Goddess" that I intentionally didn't fix. I didn't want to polish this up too much and sap all of the character out of it.

Thanks for watching!

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Comment by Sparrow6224 on June 20, 2012 at 10:07am
That is great. You might enjoy a film by Ang Lee set in Shanghai after the Japanese takeover, a few years later, called Lust, Caution.A magnificent and powerful movie, and visually spectacular.

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