Shanghai Tang

Prada‘s little movie, just released on their website, is a bold attempt at visual communication that can address the digital age. It’s not quite like those little gems put out on SHOWstudio yet it is compelling because of it’s old-world, almost film-noir sensibility.

The close-to-ten-minutes, black and white film tells no story yet it is delightful because of its visual richness, an East-meets-West exoticism that matches the city of Shanghai, where the film is shot.

Sort of Wong Kar Wai meets Billy Wilder, it is the work of Chinese film-maker/photographer/painter Yang Fudong (杨福东). whose seminal 5-part work Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (竹林七贤) was screened at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Back in 2004, when Yang was in his early 30s, New York Times called him a “gifted cinematographer” who “creates an atmosphere of painterly beauty, saturated with romance and regret, that is visually absorbing and entirely his own”.

The Prada film, shot on 35mm like most of Yang’s works, features a group of young men and women wondering through what appears to be a film set where period movies were being made. The modern youngsters peer at and mingle with actors wearing costumes that veer between Tang and Qing dynasties.

Not one word is spoken throughout the movie yet it communicates a strong message about style and content. Above all, it shows that even with a cast of mostly Chinese, a fashion film can look this ravishing.

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