CHINESE CINEMA FOCUSED ON MONEY
Guru of cinematic writing Robert McKee says trying to be popular leads to bad work,
popular and … create worst writing,” he adds.
Although China has become the world’s second-largest film market with more than 44 billion yuan in total cinema ticket sales in 2015, McKee points out a problem in today’s Chinese cinema in a straightforward way: Chinese films are obsessed with popularity and money.
“Unfortunately, China is becoming the ‘Hollywood-est’,” he says. “There is an argument that ‘ we just give people what they want’.”
Citing examples, he picks several top-grossing Chinese films of recent times, including Lost in Thailand (2012), MonsterHunt (2015) andMermaid (2016), as instances of the
My teaching is only decades old, but what I’m teaching is thousands of years old. A story is what it is. It’s never going to change.”
how projects have adapted to market criteria but not in terms of artistic appreciation.
“It’s fine. It’s delightful and entertaining, but it’s easy,” he says. “In my aesthetics, the more difficult the artists make it for themselves, the more brilliance they will create.”
McKee says it is sad that when the rest of the world talks about Chinese films these days, respected productions like Red Sorghum (1987), FarewellMy Concubine (1993) and To Live (1994) are remembered more than the relatively newer releases.
In the face of the need to entertain in the film industry, McKee emphasizes the importance of being able to stick to the “bitter truth”.
Consequently, the appearance of TV series Breaking Bad (2008-13), which focuses on the screenwriters’ capacity to tell the bitter truth and present complexities of the human race, has started “a new world” in his point of view.
Inthe past 15 to 20 years, the US has generated many such series running for 50 to 100 hours, he says, citing Breaking Bad that has 26 storylines woven together.
“The two-hour feature film is a very limited form, and the dominant art form will be long-form television,” he says.
“Their characters will be incredibly complex … good and evil. As a result, when you watch these series, you will be aware how complex you are. There is a little Walter White (the lead role in Breaking Bad) in everybody.”
McKee says that such efforts will require brilliant storytelling, more than what the world has seen. But he did not write about such trends in the book Story, and thus plans to write an upgraded version in the near future to elaborate more on long-form television.
With the development of technology, people will use new methods like eye-catching visual effects, but he is against overdoing it in films and TV series.
“It’s a question of form and content, but the two should be in harmony,” he says. “Special effects have to be expressive, but they are not excuses for bad writing.
“Human nature, life and talk have not changed. My teaching is only decades old, but what I’mteaching is thousands of years old. A story is what it is. It’s never going to change.”
Contact the writer at wangkaihao@ chinadaily.com.cn
Robert Mckee, professor