Shanghai Express

Tuesday, 29 October

Shanghai Express

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SHANGHAI EXPRESS  1932 Directed Josef von Sternberg 82 minutes In German with English subtitles

Back in Germany in the 1930s there was a rising star called Marlene Dietrich, and one of the reasons she rose to such fame was that a director latched onto her and couldn't let go. The director's name was Josef von Sternberg, and he was an Austrian working in Hollywood. Although he had immigrated to America, he had a European artistic sensibility and was almost a painter with his cinematography. His camerawork overflows with sensuality and eroticism, often giving everything a timeless dreamlike quality. The costumes he designed for his star are outrageous, and the way he lit them is legendary. In these films Josef von Sternberg created an entirely new aesthetic for cinema, based on his passion for his muse Dietrich.  

China is a lot in the news today, after decades of being dormant it has risen to the forefront back to the power it normally had in history. So let's jump aboard the Shanghai  Express as it is leaving Peking in the 1920s and take a wild ride envisioned by director Sternberg. Once aboard, we meet a British Army doctor who dumped his girlfriend (Marlene Dietrich) five years ago, but actually he still can't get over her. After their break-up she had to find a way to survive, so she now has sexual liaisons with men on the otherwise monotonous three-day train ride. Her new profession is something pretty difficult to accept for a stiff Brit. Dietrich was perfect for the role, because from all accounts, in real life she was as sexually loose as the character she plays in this movie. And luckily, the eroticism of her performance is kept intact, because this is a pre-Hays Code production, which means it was made before Hollywood censorship began. In the backgroun,d we are also drawn into the intimate lives of many of the passengers, along with disruptions caused by the civil war building up in China.

This flick is generally accepted as the most stunning collaboration between Sternberg and Dietrich. It is visually ravishing... wrapped in a voluptuous, erotic atmosphere, and almost every shot of Dietrich is a perfect painting of light and shadow.

This will be a high-definition screening.

Date & Time: 

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019 - 20:30


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  • 3-5 €
- 3 €
Filmhuis Cavia
Van Hallstraat 52-1
1051 HH Amsterdam


Go through the gate. Cavia is on the right hand side, above Xena Sports. Take the stairs.


Former squat, now legalised

Filmhuis Cavia is a counterculture cinema, founded in 1983 by a squatters movement, which programs films you aren't likely to see anywhere else.


  • film

opening times: 

Our regular screenings are on Tuesdays (programmed by Jeffrey), Thursdays and Fridays, but we also have extra screenings and film festivals throughout the year. Look us up to find our monthly program.

Doors always open half an hour before the film starts.

Weekly programme of film screenings in a circuit of underground / self-organised venues. Forgotten movies that should have been classics, neglected flics, lesser-known gems, always with a personal introduction by the programmer. All films in English, or with English subtitles.


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opening times: 

mostly Sunday to Thursday at about 7 different underground locations.