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The Shanghai Gesture (Sternberg, 1941) #TSPDT #790


The daughter of a businessman in Shanghai is lured into the swamp of booze and gambling by the owner of a troubled casino.

This movie caught me on the wrong foot. Largely, I didn't know what to make of it WHILE I was watching. It seems to me, that this is the much better *after* you've seen it, than during the course of its run. There is a bizarre quality in how Sternberg has framed his shots. Sometimes it felt that he just recorded close-ups of every actor, added some stunning total shots and then tried to figure out the script after the fact.

Obviously, this is totally untrue, but those amazing close-ups only came to life in my head after the film was over. Huston as the brooding father with the dark past has amazing images and looks like somebody with a seemingly very dark past. The hairstyles have not to be commented on - an image is more than enough and Tierney looks breathtaking.

There is one jaw-dropping sequence where the camera enters the casino for the first time. The image is simply amazing and the architecture of the room works great for the camera. I've never seen this in a newer film, but I'm sure people must have tried to copy it here and there.


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