Opening 28 Nov 2013
The message of this film is best summed up in a phrase from the song referred to in its title, ”As Time Goes By,” made famous by the movie Casablanca. The decisive phrase is this: “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” And those fundamental things are love of music and love of life, both captured by the main figures of the documentary. It tells the story of a jazz band consisting of musicians aged 53-93 who have been playing together every evening in the Peace Hotel in Shanghai since 1980, when China began to open up toward Western influences. A number of these musicians sustained their love of jazz and Western music throughout years of Japanese occupation and the Cultural Revolution, in which jazz was forbidden and jazz musicians suffered discrimination. But the musicians of the Peace Old Jazz Band have managed to maintain an enviable “esprit vivre” in spite of all these difficulties. And neither their past nor their advanced age keeps them from still having a great time playing together and checking out girls.
The documentary revolves around a decisive event, when the group is invited to play in the famous North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam. This invitation motivates them to spruce up their act with a cute young singer, Jasmine Chen, who represents a new generation of musicians and Chinese citizens unburdened by past political restraints. Both this charming young singer and the setting in Shanghai show the enormous changes taking place in China in contrast to the now somewhat old-fashioned and scratchy sounding music of The Peace Old Jazz Band. But, as the documentary also shows, there are some things that still remain the same. An uplifting movie that will send you home feeling wonderful. (Pat Nevers)