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LUXURY ON LOCATION: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)

 

The Movie: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)
The Location: Shanghai, China

Wendi Deng Murdoch is the unintentional star of the phone-hacking hearings since she jumped forward late last week to smack a pink-clad arm at a protester aiming a pie at Rupert Murdoch's face. Deng has been dubbed the original crouching tiger but it is her own just-released movie which might get the most mileage out of the incident. Deng co-produced, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, starring Li Bingbing and Gianna Jun, with a cameo role from Australia's Hugh Jackman.The Chinese epic is based on Lisa See's best-selling book. The Luxury Travel Bible went on location to find out exactly where the film was shot, what the stars did and if Wendi Deng strong-armed anyone else during the making of the movie.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Straddling early-19th-century China and modern Shanghai, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is directed by Wayne Wang (who also directed The Joy Luck Club). The film tells the story of two sets of women that share a deep bond, a love known in old Chinese culture as 'laotong'.

Deng Murdoch made the movie with fellow first-time producer, Florence Sloan. "Being good friends and both of Chinese ancestry, we decided we should make a movie out of this beautiful book," she said. Adapted from the bestselling 2005 Lisa See novel, the film diverges from the book by adding a 21st century cast of characters. Much of the modern part of the movie was shot on location in Shanghai one of China's fastest moving cities.
 
Witness the speed the Maglev train from Pudong airport whips you into the city at a top speed of 434 kilometres an hour; so fast the country outside your window is a blur as if Vaseline has been smeared across the glass. It's a fitting way to get to Shanghai, a city that is changing so fast its residents must feel as if they're permanently riding the supercharged track. Not so long ago the district the train shoots through would have been rice paddies, now there is a concrete jungle instead with tower blocks reaching for the sky.
 
At the end of last June 2011 another high speed train, the new Beijing-Shanghai express was unveiled with fully reclining airline-style business class seats, so the Shanghaiese can go faster in more comfort.

In an attempt to connect the two stories in the film Li Bingbing and Gianna Jun, play both sets of women. In the modern half of the story the actresses play Nina and Sophia Shanghai sophisticates who would not be out of place in any one of the city's blossoming night spots.

snow flower and the secret fan
snow flower and the secret fan
exterior rolls royce
movie poster
hugh jackman has a cameo role
sir elly roof top bar
snow flower and nina

At Flair bar at the top of the Ritz Carlton Pudong, the highest open-air bar in the city (you need to take two high speed lifts to get there) you can look down at all the other rooftop bars; little pools of coloured light flickering like iPad screens on the tops of every available building. Not since the heady 1930s when Shanghai was party central for the Jazz generation has the city been as lively. You can feel the energy of the city: it crackles like electricity. Several significant scenes in the movie were filmed at The Peninsula Shanghai.  The opulent hotel is the first new building on the Bund in over 60 years. When it opened in October 2009 it heralded the return of parent company, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd, to the city of Shanghai, where it had owned and operated four of China's best hotels from the 1920s to the 1950s. Queen of The bund, the hotel pays homage to this past and to the other historic buildings along the banks of the Huangpu River with an Art Deco inspired interior by Pierre-Yves Rochon. Minty greens and powder blues decorate the lobby and the luxurious rooms.

The Yi Long Court restaurant with its Michelin starred chef and 'Last Emperor' ambience could easily have been the setting for some of Snow flower's historic scenes but in fact most of the filming took place in the luxurious lobby and one of the hotel's most exclusive suites.

On the wide terrace of the Palace Suite the two stars were filmed with the spectacular backdrop of the Shanghai skyline behind them. The cast were so fond of the luxurious suite that after the movie wrapped Director Wayne Wang, Wendi Deng Murdoch and the cast were back to party in the Palace Suite again during the Shanghai Film festival. A giant marquee covered the whole of the outside terrace and champagne flowed faster than the Huangpu River below.

Scenes were also shot in The Peninsula's impressive columned lobby. When Hugh Jackman isn't dancing across the floor in his cameo as businessman, club dancer, singer  and lover of  the character played by Gianna Jun a string quartet playing in the minstrel's gallery provides the sound track for afternoon tea.  Silver racks are piled high with cakes as delicate as Chinese fans and there is an audible clink of bone china as guests sip their Peninsula blend tea. Giant 3D murals by Hong Kong artist Helen Poon provide the backdrop.

The hotel is proud of the association with the film., there is a film poster  prominently displayed on the wall of the staff quarters saying "partly shot at Peninsula Shanghai" and  in the hotel's Salon de Nin nightclub you can drink a special Snow Flower and the Secret Fan cocktail created to celebrate the  Peninsula's  movie star status.  In Salon de Ning 1930s decadence meets Dali-esque decoration (who needs a bouncer when your doorway is presided over by a giant King Kong statue?). Giant gilt picture frames act as entrances to private rooms, like a series of tableaux where drinkers merge with their surreal surrounding : one has books shelves and a desk suspended from the ceiling, another a big game safari feel.
 
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan may have been filmed in the suite but if they ever want to re-make Cabaret, Salon de Ning is the place.
 
 
Hilary Doling 25/7/11
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