Film: 3243

Places + Locations | 1930 | Sound | B/W


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An Englishman's' guide to the city of Shanghai, and some of the Chinese, and Western, pastimes. This is a wonderful look at pre-revolutionary China.

An aerial shot of Shanghai Harbour, China, in the back are some indistinct boats. A sea-plane comes in to land and the camera follows it, giving a view around the harbour; the narrator gives a summary of Shanghai's position before August 1937 when war 'placed its desecrating hands' on the country - the film was taken before this date - and a brief history of Shanghai. Shots panning across a crowd on the banks of the harbour, watching the boats. Several men on rickety wooden boats, steering them with long wooden sticks. Men on smaller craft along a jetty. Aerial shot showing harbour and vessels.

'...Shanghai grew overnight to become one of the great cities...'
Shot along the coast, harbour in foreground, outline of buildings in the background, and several small steam boats heading out to sea. Goes closer to the buildings, and shows cars parked and travelling next to the harbour. Close up across roofs, some indistinct flags on top. Shot of government buildings - again flags on top. A view across the city, lots of chimneys - goes on for a long way, among them are 'department stores' and 'banks' (from narration). Shot under a bridge, through boats moored and sailing. Repeat of earlier shot of men steering wooden boats like rafts. This time it lifts up to show the large building in the background, and the bridge. Edge of harbour, lots of boats moored up, on land, one building perhaps under construction, and a large more grand building with a clock tower, with clock and an advert for 'C.N.A.C. - Travel by Air'. Shot of large possibly luxury vessel on sea. View across harbour and out to sea, unclear land at one edge, boats move up and down. Pan down and show tall tower with the statue of a lady with wings. Move to right to show harbour and busy street. In foreground a large tower with what looks like a television or radio receiver / transmitter on the top. On street level, with pedestrians and cyclists, a few cars and in the background a building with 'Chrysler' in big letters. (This is backwards to the camera) Another street; a bus passes on one side, on the other a wedding procession - children, man in uniforms, a glittering bridal chair - marches orderly past.

A shop with Chinese symbols and lettering - 'an example of how Chinese culture is to be found everywhere in the town..' A shop with a large banner in front, a well dressed lady walks past, then a man, and another on a bicycle. A closer shot of the woman. Views down a street, showing open - fronted shops full of clothes hanging down from the ceilings. Outside one is a large group of Chinese. Several boys pushing a rickshaw pass in front, very close to the camera. Another passes, and a group of young Chinese men walk past the shop in 'typical' clothing. The narrator talks of Chinese artisans while the road traffic continues. A brief shot of a man walking towards the camera down a narrow street with shops on either side. Shots across men's heads into what may be a market. A man sits cross legged on a stool in the entrance of his shop, which has no front but material draped down. A shot of some boys - maybe a family - some bare-chested around a table in an open fronted room. An impressive view up a street, with a large banner at one edge, and a mass of possible tram lines and cables through the air. A Chinese crowd - '..more orderly than most..'. An outbreak of fire in the 'International Settlement', several policeman control the crowd. A building burns and smoke fills the air. The local firemen operate the 'latest fire-fighting appliances', they hose down the building. A ladder is extended to the roof of the building. Wider scenes showing the water jets up against the building. A man dressed in long jacket and hat climbs the ladder between the spray from two hoses. A small group of men watch, silhouetted against the fire engine being worked in front of the smoke surrounded building.
'Places of Recreation' Two western men (probably British) dressed in long jackets and hats walk down a metal staircase. Crowds of western man - and a few women - watch a horserace, although no horses are seen. A list of horses' names on a wooden board. The horses are led in a circuit by Chinese man before onlookers in a small enclosure. Crowds watch from the stands. The horses race down the track. A crowd of Chinese man stand to watch the race. The camera follows the horses down the track. The western crowd watch the race. The horses finish the race. The winning horse and jockey are led through the crowd. The jockey stands next to his horse and smiling, removes the saddle.

A group of men around a machine on the harbour. Crowds of Chinese gather for the drawing of the State lottery - wooden trays are removed from a box and stacked by some serious officials. From a triangular metal tube, the tokens, or dice are poured into a large round metal tank, in the background is a large crowd. The jar is closed. Two men start turning it by two levers on opposite sides. We see the scene from the front, the large tank in the centre, a smaller one on either side, they face the crowd on a stage. A smartly dressed Chinese crowd, many in hats, with fans, watch. A closer picture of the men turning the tanks. Two men in white gown stand between three narrow metal half-tubes with glass bubbles on the bottom. One man removes something from one glass bubble. With the whole picture we see the tubes are connected to the tanks containing the lottery numbers. There is a sign between the men, reading Marconi. The board with the winning ticket and prize number gives the results in English and Chinese. A crowd of expressionless onlookers lean over a barrier to see the results. A close up of the winning ticket.
A close up of two birds in a cage. Lots of birds in tiny cages stacked up as a shop front. A man sweeps the ground in front of them with a fan shaped wooden brush. A street with several men looking at birds in a shop front, lots of larger cages hang from the ceiling. A Chinese man in the street holds a long stick with a live bird on the end. A different man does the same, several men in the background watch him or the camera. Amongst a crowd another does the same. One man holds up his cage as he waits with his back to the camera to cross the road. More men outside a bird shop. Men examine some cages. One man shows some others two birds in a cage. A close up of an elderly man and his cage. A bearded man stares at a bird cage, then the camera. Several men look at bird cages, while the rest of the pedestrians continue past. The screen fades.

A stage, in the middle a platform like an altar with a cloth over the front, around this are many Chinese in traditional costume and behind them a decorated backdrop giving the impression of a temple and archway, on the edge of the stage are lots of candles; one man walks forwards, turns to the side and waves a white cloth between the audience and the 'alter', then faces the back of the stage and bows; from the back emerge two young girls who walk forwards to join the first man, and the taller middle one waves fan-shaped white cloths, someone - maybe them - sings. The screen fades.
People weave across a 'zig-zag bridge' that crosses a river - it is made out of wood. We follow it lead to a platform with a canopy, then continue back out in the same way. A temple is seen through a gap between two buildings. Two women with covered heads enter a Tea House, up some stairs and in between two wooden pillars. Some dolls sitting upright in chairs. What looks like a model of a temple, very elaborate, and the camera sweeps down to show some traditionally dressed figures on the steps at the entrance, then back up to a balcony. This is a house-hold shrine made of gold and silver and pearl. An arm with an elaborate sleeve opens a small wooden door - inside is a tall, perhaps gold, engraved pillar. Before this pillar a man in highly embroidered kimono bows and rises with his back to us. Another with a different gown, and elaborate hair style, bows. The narrator explains what the symbols on the Kumono mean, a close up of embroidered lions and Dragons.
A costume dragon walks across the screen. A close up of the dragons face, then tail. Two dragons face each other, then the camera, side by side, they are perhaps male and female. They bend their heads together. We return to the original dragon, whole, then close up of the head. A large, elaborate kite, also fashioned in the shape of a dragon, though not easily recognisable. It moves through the sky. Another smaller kite, to represent a carp - a baby dragon.
A model of a procession is studied slowly. A human procession moves through a crowded street, children in costume sit on horses, and there are many flags and banners. A close up of some flags, then down to those holding them on great striped flagpoles, many also walk behind with small flags or flowers, followed by a golden plinth to represent a Phoenix. Several other fancy boxes and displays are carried through on wooden poles. Young boys dance waving long oblong white flags on sticks. Young men walk past in twos, symbolizing heavy offerings and support to ward off evil. Men walk on stilts and dance to worship the dragon, two appear to act out a fight. Many more dance through with offerings. Then comes the dragon, a very long material model held up on sticks by men underneath. There is a close up of his head. A shot of the crowd. Men on horseback hold highly decorated boxes on horizontal sticks. Shots of what seems to be a field with long grass and small buildings, then we pan to the crowd and a very long thin material snake that represents a millipede. The camera follows its' body. Shot of crowd standing beneath a section of the body in the air. A crowd, people wave objects. People in the procession wave sticks or fans, in the background lots of banners, and material boxes on sticks. 'The Chinese have customs and dreams that will outlive their more modern neighbours'.

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