Film director Wong Kar-wai’s first TV drama debuts, receives mixed reviews
Published: Dec 31, 2023 09:50 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Blossoms Shanghai

Photo: Courtesy of Blossoms Shanghai

Blossoms Shanghai, a TV drama directed by the Shanghai-born Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, has recently debuted. The drama marks the director's maiden attempt at a "small screen" production.

Starring by actors such as Hu Ge and Ma Yili, Blossoms Shanghai was adapted from a Chinese novel penned by Mao Dun Literature Prize winner Jin Yucheng. The 30 episodes of TV drama follows protagonist A Bao's entrepreneurial journey and reveals how the fate of young people in Shanghai have changed in the early 1990s under new opportunities brought in by China's reform and opening-up.

In order to engage audiences in the show's Shanghai local context, Blossoms Shanghai was produced with two versions. The "Putonghua" version is being broadcast on television channel CCTV-8 and another one that features all actors speaking in Shanghai local dialect is streaming at online platform Tencent Video.

Blossoms Shanghai has become a blockbuster following its release. Just 10 minutes after CCTV Channel 8 began broadcasting, its viewership already exceeded 2 (rating points). Several topics relating to the show such as "Blossoms Shanghai and the 90s hit songs" have also become hot topics on China's Sina Weibo.

Gifted by Wong, one of China's most distinctive directors known for his poetic and dream-like cinematic style, Blossoms Shanghai has been praised by many netizens online as the "most artsy TV show of the year."

"I'm stunned and thrilled to see Wong Kar-wai's aesthetics in a TV production. Even a simple shot of a handshake seems romantic," a netizen posted on China's rating platform Douban.

"No matter if it is in Hong Kong or Shanghai, Wong is always the one who can capture the nostalgic beauty of an era. His Shanghai cultural roots must have inspired him a lot when filming the TV series," a netizen posted on Sina Weibo.

Wong himself was also once told media that the Blossoms Shanghai depicts not only individuals' stories but a "story about the era."

As many of Wong's films that are commonly seen as "off mainstream art house" productions, fellow film director Xu Yibing, told the Global Times that Blossoms Shanghai is not a production that caters to "all the audiences" due to its "storytelling and visual languages are too artistic."

Aside from receiving praise , Blossoms Shanghai has also received negative reviews. Some viewers said that compare to the original novel, the television version's story is too fragmented. Some story lines have been removed.

Some others also criticized Blossoms Shanghai as being too "affectionate" and not as "down to earth" as the original novel. Author Jin Yucheng is known as a "simple writer." His work used simple language and words combined with a clear storyline.

"I feel like the whole show is just Wong Kar-wai showing off his aesthetics style on a small screen," posted a netizen.

Although the show has received mixed reviews by netizens, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times that in any adaptions, the "literary language will need to be transformed as film language."

"It is impossible for any adapted film to be 1:1 the same to its original novel. For stylistic directors like Wong, his interpretations are meant to be different," the film critic Shi Wenxue emphasized.

The whole production cycle of the drama spans for four years of time. Prior to the production, Wong has never directed any TV series and is also living far from media spotlight. His "big screen" to "small screen" transformation has surprised many moviegoers. Some of them said that Wong has finally learned to "adapt to the current entertainment market."

Shi told the Global Times that the director's film to TV transformation implies a new collaborative pattern for the film and TV industries that many award-winning Chinese directors have started to explore new ways for visual storytelling.

"The change can diversify the current TV industry and enhance it with productions that show aesthetics and qualities of cinema," Shi told the Global Times.

Global Times