Arts and Culture
The very name of Shanghai has permeated cinema’s fantasy in the 1920s-1930s, and the city has shaped its own existence in American and French movies of the period, “because there is, said Ricciotto Canudo, a decisive American orient in cinema”. This construction of a city within the frame of exoticism and colonialism has been broadly reviewed by scholars. We’d like to focus on an aspect less commented in the artificial shaping of Shanghai atmosphere: its sound construction, including voices and accents, sounds, music. To do this, we proceed by comparing silent movies and talkies on both sides of the 1920s-1930s: is there a new atmosphere and a reshaping of exoticism resulting of the coming of synchronized sound? Or is it also a change in culture? We will support our research by studying other medias such as radio broadcasts and music industry. Keeping in the center of our thought von Sternberg’s "Shanghai Express", in the spirit of conversation with Anne Kerlan’s paper, we’d like to confront it with other American and French movies, or what is left of them for some have been lost: "Shanghai Bound" (L. Reed, 1927), "Shanghai Lady" ( Robertson, 1929), "The Ship from Shanghai" (Brabin, 1930), "Shanghai" (Flood, 1935), "Le Drame de Shanghai" (Pabst, 1938), "Mollenard" (Siodmak, 1938), etc.
Whether we consider exoticism as an “inter-connaissance visuelle”, as said Canudo in 1923, or as a domination and a colonialism as nowadays, we will ask if this inter-understanding and colonialism can also be a sound and musical one.