Empire Of The Sun Shanghai Filming Locations

Once I’d booked the trip to Shanghai a couple of months back I started to take a much closer look at movies filmed in Shanghai and was quite surprised to find that very few films were actually shot in the Chinese city. One that was though was Steven Speilberg’s 1987 epic ‘Empire Of The Sun‘ which featured Christian Bale a long, long time before he became the Dark Knight of Gotham City in the Batman flicks.

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The early scenes of the movie were shot in Shanghai with a brief glimpse across the Huangpu River of the famous Peace Hotel next to the Bank of China building appearing 2 minutes into the film to the tune of the boys choir. This hotel was once the most luxurious hotel in the Far East and its lobby is supposedly still a great example of Art Deco interior. It stands on the Bund at 20 Nanjing Donglu and made an impression on me for its pyramid roof as well as old-style look which is a great reminder of Shanghai’s past.

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Seconds later, as the sound of the choir continues, we see St. Ignatius Cathedral (also referred to as Xujiahui Cathedral) on Puxi Road in Xujiahui in the Xuhui District. This is where viewers first see a very youthful Christian Bale hitting the high notes as Jamie “Jim” Graham who is a young boy living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai. I wanted to visit this church but a mixture of being short on time and being unable to access the internet meant I was sadly unable to get the match-up photos I craved. For the record the nearest station is Xujiahui Metro station on Lines 1 and 8 and as I’m researching this after my trip I now realise how close I actually went to this area of the city! Oh well…

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The colonial home of Jim and his family was actually filmed in the city’s English settlement with the interiors shot back in Britain in a bungalow at Sunningdale in Berkshire. The family are on their way to a fancy dress party 10 minutes into the film where the enormous crowd scenes of mass tension and unrest on the Bund were somehow coordinated by Speilberg. The former Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (which I never knew until this trip was the acronym HSBC despite banking with them for most of my life!) building features prominently and today holds the Pudong Development Bank and some offices. The view across the river with the Oriental Pearl Tower in the background (lower right) doesn’t feature in the film but shows the view in the opposite direction.

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The bridge seen on 12 minutes is the Waibaidu Bridge (Garden Bridge) which is adjacent to the Bund and connects the Huangpu and Hongkou districts. The present bridge (below right) opened on 20th January in 1908 and was just round the corner from my hotel.

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Jim later signals to the Japanese Zero aircrafts flying above and some 25 years later the shot is pretty much identical which is always a delight for movie location geeks like myself. The building on the right is the aforementioned Peace Hotel and the one on the left is the Peace Palace Hotel which is also commonly known as the Peace Hotel South. Its location is 23 Nanjing Donglu (Nanjing Road).

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The rest of the film was made in Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, Knutsford in Cheshire and Trebujena in Cadiz, Andalucia (Spain) was the setting of the prison camp set.

Mission Impossible III Shanghai Filming Locations

The third instalment in the ‘Mission: Impossible‘ film series takes place in Germany, Italy, The USA and of course China where scenes were filmed in Shanghai and Xitang. The latter is a beautiful sight in itself and one worthy of a visit to anyone who happens to be  in or near Shanghai.

Following his rogue actions at the Vatican, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is captured by the IMF and interrogated but fellow agent Musgrave discreetly mouths instructions for Hunt to lip-read about Shanghai where a mysterious object called the Rabbit’s Foot is located, and provides him with the means to escape. There are brief scenes of the beautiful Pudong New Area landmarks including the Oriental Pearl Tower around 83 minutes with Hunt running and jumping off the an 88-story Jinmao Tower three minutes later. Like a lot of Shanghai this area looks so much better when its neon-lit which means that my photo taken on a pretty grey and bleak looking afternoon doesn’t really do it justice.

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The Bund is briefly seen in all its night time glory 93 minutes in and yet again the difference in the day and night appearance of the area can be seen in the screenshot and real shot below.

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After Musgrave is revealed to be the mole having arranged for Davian to acquire the Rabbit’s Foot to sell to terrorist groups he dials his phone for Ethan to hear his fiancée Julia’s voice. Ethan bites on Musgrave’s hand and beats him up, stealing the phone in the process to track the location of that call with the help of IMF technician Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) which happens to be in Xitang not that its name is mentioned.

This small ancient Chinese town first appears on 104 minutes and getting to this scenic town in Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province proved to be one hell of a struggle as I had no idea of how to get there. I started off at Shanghai Train Station but after a couple of enquiries there I was told to go to Shanghai South Railway Station. I headed for the long distance buses station not that I had any idea how far away Xitang really was. I was quite surprised to find out that it was only one bus journey away although the first lady on the information desk said it was two hours away and the next one wasn’t until 14.17 (which was well over an hour away). After much thought and deliberation I went back and asked a different lady who said it was 90 minutes away so I thought I’d take the risk without even knowing if I’d ever get back that evening. In the end I was delighted that it only took one hour to get there.

The next problem was knowing where the river town was and how to get to it. First I played safe and booked my ticket back to Shanghai which was at 17.28 meaning only two hours to do it all. I then took a cycle rickshaw paying a ridiculous 40 yuan to the driver for what was a five minute journey! Still, it was only about £4 so no real loss and it was a fun way of getting there as once he’d parked the bike he guided us through a narrow maze of alleys which ultimately led to the town.

First impressions made it all worthwhile and I was so relieved to have made it as this was one of the things I most wanted to do whilst on this trip to China. There are a few poster boards dotted around the place letting visitors know that ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ was filmed there but as they were only in Chinese I couldn’t read them. In retrospect they may have been placed at points where they filmed but I certainly can’t verify that.

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The screenshots below show Hunt’s first panoramic view of Xitang from a rooftop so I obviously couldn’t replicate that. My photos beneath the screen grabs show the bridge he first runs over from a different angle.

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With the guidance of Benji via mobile phone, Hunt runs the length of the river before taking a short right turn where he goes past the parked boats seen from slightly different angles in the screen grab and my photo below. Another left turn takes him up a few steps passing through the white building and out the other side via steps down.

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Having found Davian in Xitang, Hunt kills him, frees Julia and is electrocuted in order to deactivate an explosive for some reason or other. Of course, he is revived and as the film draws to a close on 116 minutes Xitang appears again as Hunt explains his true IMF career to Julia as they walk around. As my time was limited I sadly didn’t have as long as I would have liked to really look around and get the exact match-ups of the screenshots featured in this post.

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Below are a few more photos of Xitang which were not seen in ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ but are worthy of inclusion in this post as they show how, even on a wet and rainy day, that the place is still an awesome sight.

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How to get to Xitang: Take a bus from Shanghai South Railway Station. It takes about one hour if traffic isn’t bad. Account for another 30-60 minutes journey time if the roads are busy. Once you exit the Xitang bus station you should see a load of cycle rickshaws like in the picture below left and at the bottom of that same picture you should be able to look left and see the arch in the distance seen in the photo below right.

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Want to see more ’Mission: Impossible‘ filming locations? If so, then check out:

London Filming Locations: ‘Mission: Impossible’ (1996) – click here.

Prague Filming Locations: ‘Mission: Impossible’ (1996) – click here.

Caserta (Italy) Filming Locations: ‘Mission: Impossible III’ (2006) – click here.

Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Tokyo Raiders’ (2000)

If you were to ask me who my favourite Chinese actor is then I’d probably have to say Tony Leung. Don’t read too much into that though as its only because he has appeared in nearly all of the (very small amount of) Chinese films I’ve seen such as ‘Chungking Express‘ (1994) and ‘Infernal Affairs‘ (2002) as well as this film which is famed for being the last film ever released on LaserDisc in Japan.

Anyway, its time to take a little detour from the usual western productions ‘set’ in Japan which are predominantly covered in this category. Running out of films to review? Nope, just padding the series out a bit!! The film starts, as it continues throughout, with some fun, fast paced action in Shinjuku outside the Tokyo Milano building where a fairly ridiculous action scene with Leung using his umbrella to fight off a gang uses up nearly nine minutes. The film then flicks to Las Vegas where Macy (Kelly Chen) is jilted at the altar on her wedding day by her fiancé Ken and so she journeys to Hong Kong to find him. However, she only meets interior designer Yung (Ekin Cheng) who decorated their apartment (and who also happens to be pretty good at kung fu too!) and is wanting his payment. Together they head to Tokyo to track down the guy but they aren’t the only ones!

They soon discover that Ken had many underworld connections and that some very bad men are after him and they want to use her in order to help find him. For some reason, private investigator Lin (Leung) and a bevy of Asian beauties are on hand to help them as everything converges in Tokyo (and Yokohama) amid endless contrived fight scenes with acrobatics. The slow motion and rotating camera work is all very much in the mould of your typical John Woo movie and I can’t say that these editing techniques are really my thing. This is all accompanied by some frenzied Spanish sounding latino music which I also wasn’t such a fan of as I didn’t feel it really suited the action on screen.

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This film features Hiroshi Abe who is a rarity for me, a Japanese actor that I actually know and recognise having seen him star ‘Thermae Romane‘; a Japanese time travelling film which I saw on a plane sometime last year. All I can say is that his acting has sure got better over the last decade! In this film his gang boss character Takeshi Ito tries to be intimidating but ends up coming over as a nervous, foolish person with a bad cold! He wasn’t the only one I didn’t take to as I felt the main man himself Tony Leung (my favourite Chinese actor remember!) came up short and was maybe not as smooth and charismatic as one would hope for such a role.

A sequel called ‘Seoul Raiders‘ followed five years later which could have paved the way for a ‘…Raiders‘ movie to be made in a load of other Asian (or even world) cities but thankfully that never happened. For the 99p I paid for it I think I got value for money!

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10

 

Tokyo Daytripper: Jougan-ji a.k.a. The ‘Lost In Translation’ Temple

When I first compiled the filming locations for ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003) four years ago (and subsequently updated them in 2011) there was already much written about the Park Hyatt Hotel, Shibuya crossing and the karaoke room which Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johanson) sang in. However, some of the other locations were pretty limited in detail such as the shabu shabu and sushi restaurants as well as the strip club scene place, the nightclub and the temple where Charlotte is seen walking around in the rain.

Jougan-ji is that very temple but as its not famous there’s still very little about it on the internet. It is actually quite a difficult place to find as its located on a highway (route 317)  just inside Nakano-ku bordering Shinjuku-ku. The temple gets a massive 38 seconds of screen time!

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The two screenshot match-ups above were taken four years apart and whilst my jacket is still the same old one there is a bit more hair on top now! As for the two match-upsbelow they were taken at the main hall which I’m sure you can enter but I tend not to go in such places as I don’t like to interfere with religion in any way!

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So thats the movie locations out of the way and now for the rest of the temple which is quite an interesting little place. The actual address is Honcho 2-26, Nakano-ku and the closest station is Nakano-Sakaue on the Marunouchi and Oedo lines. It’s a seven minute walk from there and once you pass a fairly big 100 yen shop you’re nearly there. It’s on the right hand-side if you’re coming from that station. The photos below show what its like from the outside coming from the other side.

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Once you’ve gone through the white arch there’s a big open area for parking and all around, the place is dotted with little statues and temple buildings. You can get a free pamphlet about the beginnings of Jougan-ji at the main temple and it even includes a whole page in perfect English featuring an interesting story from over 600 years ago.

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A cemetry can be found behind the view below left which we first see in ‘Lost In Translation‘ after 11:58 minutes. Overall, its a nice place but not quite as tranquil and spiritual as in the film where the moment was further aided by the ‘Air‘ soundtrack.

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You can see the complete ‘Lost In Translation’ filming locations here.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Fate Of Ahsoka

The fifth (and final?) season of ‘Star Wars The Clone Wars‘ came to a dramatic and deeply moving conclusion last weekend when, after years and years of speculation, the fate of heroine Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) was finally known.

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Episode 20′s ‘The Wrong Jedi‘ brought about the end of a quadrilogy arc of episodes which saw Ahsoka framed for a list of murders and crimes she didn’t commit. To cut a long story short she was eventually acquitted but having not been fully supported by the Jedi order she hoped to become a major part of, she walked away.

There is talk of whether she was just being invited to re-join as Anakin’s padawan back in the Jedi order or whether she would now have made the step up to become a true Jedi but she didn’t feel she could do it when the likes of Yoda, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Plo Koon and co had failed to support her in her trial before the Senate. Anakin (Matt Lanter) did stand by her but in those chilling final moments she said it wasn’t about him and that she couldn’t stay there any longer.

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I couldn’t even remember my original reaction to Ahsoka when I saw her burst on the screen in the 2008 Clone Wars movie which preceded the first season. Having just re-read that quickly cobbled-together review I have to say that I am actually quite relieved to see that I liked her from the off and the banter between her and Anakin was something that I enjoyed. Perhaps fitting that, like the season 1 and season 3 finale’s, Ahsoka’s touching final scene was with her master.

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For me this scene wasn’t just one of Clone Wars best ones but also one of Star Wars’ finest moments. I was so caught up in the moment with my neck hairs standing on end that I didn’t even notice that when Ahsoka said “I know” in response to Anakin’s comment about sometimes wanting to walk away from the order she used a classic Han Solo line from ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ albeit very different in tone. Had she long known of his other life outside of the Jedi regarding his secret marriage to Padme?

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He may be no John Williams but Kevin Kiner’s mournful music accompanying Ahsoka walking away deserves a lot of praise and really added a touch of solemnity to a powerful ending where the traditional ending music made way for ‘Ahsoka’s Theme‘ in the kind of fashion often used by British and Australian soap opera’s when a much-loved character exits the show.

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This emotional exit scene beetween the pair may also help explain why Anakin was a different man in ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ at times frustrated by the Jedi order which would eventually lead to him turning to the dark side and becoming Darth Vader. Now, of course Ahsoka hasn’t died which could even leave open the possibility of her appearing in the forthcoming films scheduled for release from 2015 onwards. Her life as a Jedi may be over but there is still a glimmer of hope that her story has some legs left in it but in a way I hope that that is the end. I am actually a fan of shows or characters going out in style whilst they are popular rather than limping on. Just because one of the main characters has left it doesn’t mean that its the end of the show but given that its definitely ended on the Cartoon Network and with no word of it being recomissioned on the Disney channel it could well be a fitting end to a truly remarkable story of a young girl’s journey throughout the clone wars era.