Chi­nese di­rec­tors cri­tique Hol­ly­wood and China’s cin­ema

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By AMY HE in New York

As more Hol­ly­wood movie stars show up in China to pro­mote their work in the world’s sec­ond-largest box of­fice, two of China’s big­gest film di­rec­tors of­fered their views on Hol­ly­wood and the Chi­nese cin­ema land­scape.

Di­rec­tors Ang Lee — a twotime Academy Award win­ner — and Zhang Yi­mou spoke to a small au­di­ence about “China’s film” and “China’s con­fi­dence” at New York’s Cooper Union. The event was spon­sored by New York Univer­sity’s Tisch School of the Arts and pop­u­lar on­line video por­tal LeTV, a Bei­jing-based com­pany that owns Le Vi­sion Pic­tures, which pro­duced Zhang’s lat­est film Com­ing Home. The film is ex­pected to pre­miere at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in May.

Re­flect­ing on the movies pop­u­lar in China now, Lee said that on one hand, di­rec­tors are learn­ing from Hol­ly­wood, but on the other, they’re re­sort­ing to re­cy­cle, “and that’s not good”.

The two di­rec­tors talked about their up­com­ing projects, but they di­vulged very lit­tle. Lee said that he is work­ing on a film about box­ing, a 3D film that was first re­ported about last year, not­ing that there were some “dif­fi­cul­ties, money-wise”. He did not elab­o­rate.

Zhang said his next project will be a Hol­ly­wood project, a “large-scale” one that’s go­ing to be a “big chal­lenge” to him. Zhang is a house­hold name in China, fa­mous for works like Raise the Red Lan­tern and House of Fly­ing Dag­gers. He also di­rected the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies of the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics.

The di­rec­tors were given the op­por­tu­nity at the event on March 27 to ask each other ques­tions, and Zhang asked Lee about his place in the film in­dus­try as some­one who can “in­habit both worlds”, as a Chi­nese di­rec­tor who won Os­cars for Broke­back Moun­tain and Life of Pi.

“How do you put the Chi­nese world into your movies if you’re mak­ing a movie for the world and you want the world to un­der­stand you?” Zhang asked.

Lee said that the an­swer lied in “mas­ter­ing the Hol­ly­wood style” and that there are “ba­sic rules of movie-mak­ing that we all un­der­stand”. He said that moviemak­ers have to find their own lan­guage, and then work on find­ing a com­mon lan­guage with the world.

Both Lee and Zhang took pride in China be­ing the big­gest movie mar­ket in the world. “Hol­ly­wood came to me, I didn’t go to Hol­ly­wood,” Zhang said, re­fer­ring to his next project. “This co­op­er­a­tion with Hol­ly­wood will be good pro­mo­tion for Chi­nese cul­ture.”

Global box of­fice sales for Amer­i­can movies re­leased around the world were nearly $36 bil­lion in 2013, and China made up more than $3 bil­lion of that, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased by the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica (MPAA). China be­came the first in­ter­na­tional mar­ket to ex­ceed $3 bil­lion in box of­fice, ac­cord­ing to MPAA, which rep­re­sents six ma­jor US movie stu­dios.

Lee said that 20, 30 years ago, China didn’t have a movie cul­ture and then sud­denly it be­came an in-de­mand mar­ket. But he said that China’s world of cin­ema is not with­out prob­lems. “I feel like cul­ture is some­thing that nat­u­rally grows. If you make it grow too fast, it won’t be healthy,” he said, and that movies need to find their au­di­ence nat­u­rally in or­der to be healthy.

Di­rec­tors and moviemak­ers can­not be ei­ther too ar­tis­ti­cally-in­clined or busi­nes­sori­ented, Lee said. “In a mar­ket as big as China’s, of course we all want to see it grow healthily, and wish for it to be bet­ter than Amer­ica’s. And Amer­ica is not nec­es­sar­ily healthy right now, ei­ther. I kind of want China to help Amer­ica a lit­tle,” he joked.

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