I Wish I Knew

2010
6.9| 2h5m| en
Details

Focuses on the people, their stories and architecture spanning from the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was opened as a trading port, to the present day.

Director

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Xstream Pictures

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Reviews

Precisett This movie is magnificent!
Console best movie i've ever seen.
Adeel Hail Unshakable, witty and deeply felt, the film will be paying emotional dividends for a long, long time.
Haven Kaycee It is encouraging that the film ends so strongly.Otherwise, it wouldn't have been a particularly memorable film
lasttimeisaw A documentary about my hometown Shanghai directed by Jia Zhangke, who is actually from Fenyang, Shanxi Province, I WISH I KNEW, the title refers to the oldie sung by one of the interviewees reminiscing a bygone era, when budding bourgeois value has been permanently instilled into the metropolis' distinct characteristics after being opened as a commercial port to the foreign trade at the middle of 19th century. Jia cherry-picks 18 interviewees (reportedly out of more than 80 candidates), who run the gamut from the descendants of well-known capitalist, politician, revolutionist, military officer, gangster and artists, to the contemporary cluster of painter, businessman, writer, singer and filmmakers. A majority of the interviewees recounts their individual stories during turbulent times both before and after the liberation of PRC in 1949, where a cornucopia of anecdotes about assassinations, political persecutions, exiles, romantic relationships, film-makings and so on, brings a potently nostalgic thrill to those who are familiar with the history, and a disarmingly titillating novelty to those who are not. Spatio-temporally, Jia also bracingly taps into two other locations, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to garner memories from those Shanghainese who are far away from their hometown (whether out of their own willing or not). Indeed, most of these scions are in their senior age, articulate their tales- of-woe with an affecting air of earnest, although sometimes they belie a carefully premeditated diction, to circumvent the sensitive historical and political milieu (one exception is a telling narration of a daughter's cri-de-coeur to the cruel fact that she has never met her own father, a member of Kuomintang who was executed by the government). Inevitably, there are highs-and-lows in those selected personages, the inclusion of actors and filmmakers are beneficial to cinephiles, e.g. Fei Mingyi, the daughter of Chinese director Fei Mu; Wei Wei, the leading lady from Fei's groundbreaking SPRING IN A SMALL TOWN (1948), who resides in Hong Kong and is 94-year-old this year; Wei Ran, the son of famous Chinese actress Shangguan Yunzhu whose life ends in a tragic note; notable singer-and-actress, Rebecca Pan, who stands out as an exemplar of Shanghainese in several Wong Kar-Wei's best films. But directors Wong Toon and Hou Hsiao-Hsien's involvement feels slightly far-fetched from the team spirit of this endearing documentary, their personal paths with the city itself are overtly not emblematic enough, in spite of their respective filmic efforts. Segueing from one interviewee to another, the film implausibly inter-cuts the images of actress Zhao Tao, Jia's screen-muse and helpmate, loitering in the construction sites or on the ferry like a ghost, is she looking for something, or just a visual placeholder to balance the film's pace? I personally incline to the latter. Far from being an all-embracing essay study of a city's yesterday, today and future with a pungent statement, I WISH I KNEW is muted in its ambition, refuses to editorialize the bigger picture, but more engagingly presents itself as a winning ethnic monograph through DP Nelson Yu's discerning eye.
cin_kong The history of Shanghai as preserved on film or celluloid. That's what this documentary has shown us. Despite having to struggle through the Shanghai dialect and French titles in the TV broadcast, I felt moved by some of stories being related. Presented in chronological order, the documentary manages to show a glimpse of Shanghai through the ages. The people interviewed retells the story that are depicted in the images and the films. Even more poignant because they were witnesses as well as participants of the featured era. Those movies reflected a sign of the times. It truly is a whole different side of Shanghai I never saw from any movie or TV show.
insomnia Director Jia Zhang-ke was commissioned to make a film commemorating last year's Shanghai World Fair. Population-wise, Shanghai is the biggest city in China. It sits at the mouth of the giant Yangstze River, and is therefore a major port. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking opened Shanghai to foreign trade. And the city boomed. Shanghai suffered a decline in influence when the Communists came to power in 1949, but rose once again in 1990, when then Premier Deng Xiaoping introduced economic reforms in 1990. When my wife and I stayed with a friend living in Shanghai, it was impossible not to see that Shanghai was booming like never before. One sixth of the world's cranes it was said, crowded the city's skyline. Everywhere one looked, buildings were being razed to the ground to make way for newer, taller structures. In a city with nearly 17,000,000 people, the crowds were like nothing we'd ever experienced before. The traffic wasn't much better. However, the overall impression we took away with us was of a city that was thriving, achieving and vital Jia Zhang-ke's film "I Wish I Knew" has been described as a 'melancholic history of Shanghai", from the brutalities of the Japanese occupation, right up till the present day. Unfortunately, this film in no way gives a person watching this film the impression that Shanghai is one of the most powerful cities in the world. There was scarcely a mention of Japanese occupation Instead, we are subjected to no less than eighteen people sitting around and recounting their memories, more of their family lives than of Shanghai itself. For the most part, these people's memories were mundane and tedious. Then there was the young woman wandering around The Bund, or walking in the rain – why? Who knows, as it's never explained? Granted, things don't have to be spelled out in black and white, but for the life of me, I couldn't see the point. This film is devoid of the sense of a city on the move. The cinema-photography seemed to me well, to be blunt about it, rather amateurish with far too much "framing" The subtitling was truly woeful, with most of the background being pale, the white subtitles were often mainly impossible to read. Footage of Shanghai as it once was to me virtually non-existent and the feel of the city as if it was to me, was also virtually non-existent, too. Overall, this film was an opportunity missed, a perfect illustration of a chance squandered.
Trent Reid An outstanding documentary feature which combines brief interviews with now-aged subjects who were often direct or secondary observers of key historic events in Shanghai history. But it is not the factual evidence alone which is fascinating, rather the personal significance and sociocultural context which is provided by montage sequences mixing archival footage with contrasting long pans of contemporary and period architecture. The subjects comment freely on the character of their past relatives, and speculate upon their intent and aims within the context of the time. ******************SPOILER****WARNING***********************This often involves ironic, unintentional consequences such as interviewees reflecting on not minding a spartan life under communism as they had lived it up frequenting the opera beforehand. One older man now frequenting a senior dance club speaks freely of the practical necessities overriding ideological concerns in people attending political events for the free MSG and mosquito repellent coils. Ironic, given his relative's instrumental involvement in making MSG production independent of Japan's Aji-no-Moto. Or those once youthfully involved with propaganda film now walking through an abandoned factory floor.There is also a subtext paralleling Shanghainese history with that of the nation. One instance subtly draws a historical comparison between the Warring States period and the alley gang structure of power in early Shanghai, this is followed by a comic interlude panning by a child bragging for a fight. The KMT, political assassination in Shanghai, Chiang Kai-shek's retreat to Taiwan, and the impact of the Cultural Revolution are all key - but it is also a history of cinema and theatrical art in the city.Hou Hsiao-Hsien talks about his impressions of the city while making Flowers of Shanghai, and how the novel reflects the changing idea of romantic love there. There is also 1972 footage of Michelangelo Antonioni having tea after coming to Shanghai by Zhou Enlai's invitation to make a film,(Chung Kuo - Cina) about the Chinese people. An interviewee assigned to Antonioni talks about his protest of the way China was being characterized as backwards. As it turns out, he says, the film was being used by the Gang of Four as a pretext to attack Zhou Enlai - a film he has to this day still never really seen. In another vignette, the director's daughter reflects upon the reaction to the now classic Spring in a Small Town, (1948) and her family's move to H.K. to let the dust settle over what may now seem a stylized romantic film. Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild is touched on in an unexpectedly refreshing and sad manner, and later segments reflecting entrepreneurial capitalism and contemporary youth culture are equally unpredictable.There are expected elements in a documentary of this type, with family members discussing migration and fragmented lives. But there are also the recurring architectural extended metaphors typical of Jia Zhangke's work. These are multiple and constant, less literal and perhaps more open here. Director Jia has his muse Zhao Tao in key bridging scenes, using her dance background to reflect the sentiments of the first interview subject from the senior dance club who sings the titular song. This delves below the surface sentiments of romantic nostalgia to reflect uncertainty, disparity, and ironic consequences that shaped the city and its filmic representation.

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