Direc­tor makes mar­tial arts de­but

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU­FAN

A well-known name in West­ern film cir­cles, Chi­nese direc­tor Chen Kaige has now shot a mar­tial arts movie for the first time in his 30-year film­mak­ing ca­reer.

Chen shot to fame with the 1985 drama Yel­low Earth. As one of the coun­try’s most in­flu­en­tial di­rec­tors, Chen earned an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion in the early 1990s, when his movie Farewell My Con­cu­bine won the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in 1993. It won a Golden Globe for best for­eign film a year later.

The vet­eran direc­tor has now turned his at­ten­tion to wuxia, a genre of mar­tial arts films. Wuxia films were some of the ear­li­est Chi­nese films to at­tract the at­ten­tion of West­ern movie­go­ers but in re­cent years the genre has been in decline.

Only five of the 618 films re­leased last year were mar­tial arts tales, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 China Film In­dus­try Re­port.

Chen’s up­com­ing wuxia com­edy drama, Monk Comes Down the Moun­tain, will hit main­land the­aters on July 3, with more than 200 cine­mas re­leas­ing the ti­tle in the IMAX 3-D ver­sion.

Set in the tur­bu­lent pe­riod in the Repub­lic of China (1912-49), the story, based on the name­sake best-sell­ing wuxia novel, fea­tures an adventure jour­ney of a young Taoist monk, who is forced to leave his se­cluded tem­ple to avoid a famine.

Chen be­lieves a movie should be an “in­ter­est­ing” prod­uct and not only fo­cus on money. Chen says his lat­est film, which took 213 days to shoot with more than 1,000 crew mem­bers, is the most “ar­du­ous” work he has ever made.

“Ev­ery day (on sets) was like a prac­tice for me. It has been tough, but very ex­cit­ing,” the 63-year-old direc­tor says.

Ru­mors re­ported by Chi­nese me­dia sug­gested that the mul­ti­ple-award win­ning film­maker was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal last year af­ter work­ing too hard.

In the trail­ers of the film, the ma­jor rules of Taoist dis­ci­pline, such as veg­e­tar­i­an­ism and ab­sti­nence, ap­pear to be bro­ken by the pro­tag­o­nist, played by Chi­nese ac­tor Wang Bao­qiang.

Wang is familiar to Chi­nese view­ers for his trade­mark “silly” smile in a se­ries of com­edy block­busters, but he is in fact a real kung fu prac­ti­tioner. Wang started learn­ing mar­tial arts skills at 6 years old and be­came a dis­ci­ple at Shaolin Tem­ple at age 8. He shot to fame in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try for play­ing the role of an im­mi­grant worker in Feng Xiao­gang’s A World With­out Thieves in 2004.

Chen was crit­i­cized for coarse spe­cial ef­fects in his 2005 fan­tasy epic The Prom­ise. That film is now re­garded as a turn­ing point for Chen to trans­form from an art-house direc­tor to a com­mer­cial com­edy film­maker.

Chen Hong, pro­ducer and the direc­tor’s wife, says they have hired An­i­mal Logic, an Aus­tralian an­i­ma­tion and vis­ual ef­fects stu­dio ( The Great Gatsby, The Ma­trix), to de­sign the pic­turesque sce­nar­ios.

The big-bud­get film also de­lights fans with an all-star cast, in­clud­ing Hong Kong su­per­star Aaron Kwok, Tai­wan vet­eran ac­tor Chang Cheng, Tai­wan su­per­mod­el­turned actress Lin Chi-ling and the Asian Film Awards’ best ac­tor win­ner Wang Xueqi.

The story al­ready has a solid fan base. The book be­hind the movie was first pub­lished in 2007 and has a score of 7.5 out of 10 from more than 2,300 read­ers on Douban.com, one of China’s largest on­line re­view plat­forms.

Most re­views sing praises of the first half for the “in­no­va­tive nar­ra­tive” but crit­i­cize the sec­ond half as “a fail­ure” for the un­rav­el­ling sto­ry­line.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.