Shanghai Triad ★★★★

Is this the first time Zhang used color filters, sumptuous sets and fancy costumes to aestheticize a genre film? Restricting himself to the (limited) POV of a servant, newly arrived in town from the country, who witnesses the depravity of the triad lifestyle gives the film a political purpose, siding with the oppressed against the viciousness of gangster capitalism. It allows the film to be seen as politically acceptable by both Western film critics and the Chinese communist elite, who see their revolutionary forefathers in the darting, judgmental eyes of the young man. Zhang walked that line for a long time before he finally fell out of favor with the critics.