Bourdain’s Field Notes

You might notice that in this episode, set in Shanghai, I am from time to time wearing a colored pocket square or foulard. This is not, you might have noticed, normal for me. But there is a method to my madness. These tiny notes of color are our first venture into actual production design—a calculated effort to give the episode a specific look.

I have long been besotted with the works of Chinese director Wong Kar-wai and his frequent cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Their films In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express are gorgeous meditations on longing and desire and missed connections. They are spectacularly shot—and a while back I noticed how tiny elements of color in the foreground of the frames are often connected to similar colors in the background, giving scenes a lush, unified atmosphere that feels natural and undesigned. So we tried—as best and as cheaply as possible—to do that. You will notice scenes tied together by colors. Cameraman Mo Fallon and cameraman/editor Nick Brigden did, I think, truly epic work on this one.

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Travel like Bourdain

“From what I see everywhere I go, the world is becoming more Chinese—Chinese influence, Chinese food. You build a hotel in Vegas or a casino in Singapore, you have to consider, What will the Chinese think?”

Know Before You Go

Apps are essential. With English signs throughout, Shanghai is arguably mainland China’s most international city. However, English is seldom spoken by your average dumpling vendor, taxi driver, or Metro steward. Free apps like Google Translate, Pleco, and Shanghai Metro Map will go a long way in bridging the linguistic divide, so download them before you embark on your visit to China.

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