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This stylized combination of thriller and drama, set in Shanghai a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, had its premiere in the main program of the Venice festival, but a good two and a half years had to pass before “Saturday Fiction” could finally be found in the depths of the internet. One of the reasons for this may be the reputation of director Yeo Lou, an author who often had problems with Chinese censors, so after the romance, which took place during the Tiananmen protests in 1989, “Summer Palace”, he was banned from filming for five years. movies. And “Saturday Fiction” is a rather politically engaged story, which seems to be modeled after Curtiz’s famous “Casablanca”, because the plot also takes place here in rather interesting political circumstances.

Although Japan had long occupied China, the British and French sectors in Shanghai, the so-called concessions, are still nominally free. Thus, on December 1, 1941, just a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the famous actress Jean Yu (one of the most famous Chinese actresses Gong Li, perhaps best remembered for her role in Zhang’s “Raise the Red Lantern”) arrived in Shanghai. ). The official version of her return is a performance in a play directed by her former lover, but it soon becomes clear to us that the real reason for her return is the hope that she could get her ex-husband captured by the Japanese out of prison.

It is clear to us from the very beginning that the situation is extremely unstable, politically fragile and insecure. Ye Lou presented it brilliantly stylistically and visually, because this combination of thriller and drama, filmed in black and white with a hand-held camera, seems mysterious and the story is revealed slowly and cleverly. Narratively, screenwriter Yingli Ma set it up exceptionally well, and it is truly a pleasure to follow this puzzle as it patiently comes together and leads to a fantastic culmination at the end of the film. It is a thriller full of politics and mystery, which at the same time seems equally old-fashioned, as if it comes from some ancient times, but also so modern, and Ye Lou obviously cannot help but be politically subversive, full of symbolism for today and his situation.

The film actually begins in a theater in the French concession with a rehearsal of a play called “Saturday Fiction” in which Jean plays the main role. The rehearsal takes place on a stage that resembles a night club and it takes some time to realize that it is actually a rehearsal of a theater play. And it seems quite chaotic in those moments, for a while it is not clear to us what is a rehearsal and what is reality, and a great job was done here in merging reality and fiction. The theater will serve as a cover for espionage and counter-espionage, infiltration and manipulation, and practically everyone here has their own schemes and it is difficult to figure out who is on which side. In addition to the native Chinese, some of whom are collaborators, and some of whom are in the resistance movement, there are Japanese occupiers, namely the army, intelligence and secret services, as well as the British and French who have various occupations, but this is actually just a cover for their espionage activities.

It is clear to Westerners that Japan is up to something and that it is planning to get involved in World War II in the way we know today that it got involved, and the famous actress here should serve as a key cog that will lead to possibly crucial information. “Saturday Fiction” brilliantly shows the historical setting and how the Japanese try to feign tolerance and allow the local population theater and culture, but we will understand that the only reason for this is quite cynical, which is information gathering, manipulation, blackmail, eavesdropping and all what goes with it. “Saturday Fiction” turned out to be a pleasant surprise, a masterfully rounded spy thriller – a political drama with which Lou Ye confirmed that he is a director with a clear vision and a style that many would envy.