A film shoot on JieFang Bei Lu

I wrote in a post here that JieFang Bei Lu had a real cinematographic atmosphere. On my last evening in Tianjin, when I was coming back from a goodbye dinner in the Italian concession, I actually saw a movie shot there.

The street signs had been changed – not just to blur the space and preserve the privacy of local residents, but because the film was set in old Shanghai.

A policeman told us to stop – the street was blocked off, even to pedestrians – curious, I decided to stay and watch, rather than take the long way around. I was interested to see how many people were there. I wasn’t sure how many were locals enjoying the distraction, how many part of the actual crew. In any case, it was a lot of people to keep quiet, or manage.

After about ten minutes, the street was opened again, and we were pressed on to pass. I was a bit tired, and went back home. I didn’t see celebrities, or any actual acting. Just bicycles, cars and a taxi passing back and forth. They were probably shooting some B-roll, atmospheric footage to be used in-between studio scenes.

I was glad, on that last evening, that my earliest intuition was confirmed. Indeed, JieFang Bei Lu was like a film set. Indeed, it had a European charm that Shanghai had probably lost in its too quick development.

Or maybe, it was just more that Tianjin is still unimportant enough that a street can easily be cordonned off; and things are not better here – just cheaper?

Fairy lights

Chinese cities are particularly beautiful at night. Like a film-set, they depend on controlled, artificial lighting for their magic to work.

The dirt on the footpath, the open construction sites, the smoggy air, all of these disappear into the dark. A simple street scene becomes a mysterious epiphany.

A bar singer, a Hong-Kong movie star.

Sometimes, it is the sheer quantity of light – the general shininess of things, that creates wonder.

It’s also the contrast of colour, silver/gold, blue/yellow.

The set is ready; the lights are on. The fairies can come, and play their fairy tunes.