WHEN DIS­TANCE MAT­TERS LIT­TLE

Xue Xiaolu’s lat­est film, Book of Love, draws in­spi­ra­tion from an old Amer­i­can book. Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

He­lene Hanff’s 84, Char­ing Cross Road has touched many read­ers over the years with its sto­ry­line— a 20-year cor­re­spon­dence be­tween the Amer­i­can author and a Lon­don book­seller.

Now, the 1970 book has found an unusual taker in Chi­nese di­rec­tor Xue Xiaolu.

Xue’snew­film, Book of Love, which is a se­quel to the 2013 Chi­nese hit Find­ing Mr Right, is in­spired byHanff.

The film, which opened the re­cent Beijing In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, will be re­leased on the Chi­nese main­land on Fri­day.

Find­ing Mr Right, the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of the Amer­i­can ro­mance Sleep­less in Seat­tle (1993), is the top-gross­ing ro­mance of all time in Chi­nese film his­tory.

Tang Wei and Wu Xi­ubo, who starred in Find­ing Mr Right, lead the se­quel’s cast, too.

The first film’s com­mer­cial suc­cess has not only sparked a boom in sim­i­lar-genre Chi­nese films in re­cent years, it has also lured a num­ber of af­flu­ent Chi­nese to pur­chase houses in Seat­tle, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

Many direc­tors avoid mak­ing films sim­i­lar to the ones they’ve pre­vi­ously made, and Xue like­wise has re­sisted pick­ing up her new­film’s plot from where the last one ends.

While in the first film, a preg­nant wo­man trav­el­ing from Beijing to Seat­tle falls in love with a di­vorced fa­ther, the se­quel tells the tale of a casino worker in­Ma­cao and a prop­erty agent in Los An­ge­les.

Herein lies the con­nec­tion with the book 84, Char­ing Cross Road.

The se­quel’s main char­ac­ters es­tab­lish a cor­re­spon­dence. The two experience many ups and downs in their re­spec­tive lives and gain courage from the letters they write to each other.

Un­like many ro­mance dra­mas that let their pro­tag­o­nists meet early in the movie, Book of Love makes them meet to­ward the end.

“The tale is not only about love but also about the des­ti­na­tions, fam­ily con­nec­tions and the strug­gles of el­derly Chi­nese im­mi­grants to find cul­tural fa­mil­iar­ity abroad,” Xue tells China Daily.

The di­rec­tor re­cently ap­peared for an event to pro­mote the film at Beijing’s Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

She de­scribes the film as a “heart­warm­ing” story that re­volves around the ques­tion of how to main­tain emo­tional ties in to­day’s fast-paced so­ci­eties.

In ad­di­tion to the cou­ple’s some­what old-school pla­tonic love, the film in­ter­weaves di­a­logues with many an­cient Chi­nese po­ems, such as the pop­u­lar lines writ­ten by Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618-907) po­ets Li Bai andWang Changling.

Most of the poem-stud­ded lines are spo­ken by an old Chi­ne­seim­mi­grantinLos An­ge­les.

Xue ex­plains that the po­ems are a key mea­sure for the el­derly Chi­nese im­mi­grants to pro­tect their cul­tural roots.

“An­cient Chi­nese po­ems rep­re­sent the most typ­i­cal part of Chi­nese cul­ture. I hope the di­a­logues don’t make young au­di­ences feel alien­ated, be­cause that’s not the in­ten­tion,” she says.

Xue also says the cor­re­spon­dence in the film is to re­mind view­ers of the beauty of hand­writ­ten letters, rare items in the era of the in­ter­net.

“If you write, you will come up with some beau­ti­ful lines. You can hardly find those from just talk­ing or send­ing mes­sages on phone apps or over so­cial me­dia,” she adds.

Xue hopes the film will also help re­vive movie­go­ers’ in­ter­est in off­line read­ing. She says the Chi­nese ver­sion of 84, Char­ing Cross Road is likely to be reprinted in the thou­sands as part of the film’s pro­mo­tion.

Along­side Ma­cao and Los An­ge­les, the film has scenes in Lon­don, Las Ve­gas, Van­cou­ver, Hong Kong, Beijing and South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince.

Xue says a replica of the Lon­don book­store de­picted in the book was built in Van­cou­ver.

ook of Love is pro­duced by Edko Films, a com­pany that made China’s all-time high­est­gross­ing Mon­ster Hunt, on a bud­get that’s big­ger than the 2013 movie’s.

Other than Tang and Wu, the cast in­cludes veteran Hong Kong ac­tor Paul Chun and Chi­nese main­land actors Wang Zhi­wen and Lu Yi.

Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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The up­com­ing ro­mance movie BookofLove stars Tang Wei (left) and Wu Xi­ubo. Xue Xiaolu, di­rec­tor

Watch trailer by scan­ning the code.

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