Updated 1/28/2012 6:57 am – Gotta credit my friend Edwin in Taiwan for sharing this. This is a pretty interesting write up about the state of Chinese films in America. Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors, I have loved his work prior to Batman. Two of my favorite Bale movies are American Psycho and The Machinist.
I’m not a big fan of Zhang Yimou either… he’s got talent but I guess he’s just not my style. My favorite Chinese direction is Ang Lee. Flowers of War sounds pretty interesting and I’m especially interested in how Christian played John Miller.
Now I kind of have to make an observation and commentary and I will probably get some hate for this but whatever. The general American movie audience are hardly bright at all (that’s why Hollywood can turn out stupid films and still be big box office hits). And they certainly never really have strong appetite for period war films that does not involve America… no matter how good this film is (and I’m not saying it is because I haven’t seen it yet) I don’t think it will be appreciated here on a broad level anyway…
Check out the related story links in the end as well. I find it VERY INTERESTING about the incidents Bale have after the movie was done and released. I should also mention after Christian Bale has gone mainstream I’ve heard he’s kind of turn into a ego maniac and became a big headed dick head at times… This seems to be very different than how he was earlier in his carrier. I hope he does not remain like this and finds himself again. We are all challenge in life but money, fame and other distraction at times. But dude is talented as hell I hope the best for him.
- JANUARY 19, 2012, 6:09 AM HKT
Zhang Yimou, ‘Flowers of War’ and the U.S.
- Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
- Zhang Yimou in Beijing on Dec. 12
One of the few Chinese directors with a reputation for success in the U.S. is downplaying prospects there for his latest film.
This despite the fact that it has burned up the box office in China itself and stars one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors.
“Chinese movies make up a tiny portion of the U.S. market,” Zhang Yimou told China Real Time as his film “Flowers of War” was set to open in New York, Los Angeles and 11 other U.S. cities on Friday. “Basically, if you get the opportunity just to attract attention there, you’re already doing well.”
That’s likely not what China’s leaders, who have recently focused their attention on the country’s cultural competiveness, were hoping to hear. With Hollywood star Christian Bale in the lead role and a budget nearing $100 million, “Flowers” is China’s most expensive and internationally ambitious film to date. It’s also the country’s best hope for an Oscar this year.
The film, set during Japan’s brutal occupation of the city of Nanjing in the late 1930s, features Mr. Bale in the role of John Miller, an alcoholic American mortician who is sent to bury a local priest. He finds redemption in the effort to save a group of Chinese schoolgirls from a throng of rapacious Japanese soldiers and along the way falls in love with a prostitute.
“Flowers” has done well in China, pulling in $83 million in its first 17 days – good enough to make it the third-highest grossing Chinese film. It was nominated for six awards, including best film and best director, in the Asia Film Awards competition this week.
Despite its success, “Flowers” has not thrilled the critics. Some have cringed at its use of a wartime atrocity as the backdrop for a romance while others have complained itlacks the nuance of Mr. Zhang’s previous films, which include the award-nominated “Raise the Red Lantern” and “To Live.”
Asked why he chose to film “Flowers”–based on a novel by Yan Geling–when so many films had already been made about the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, Mr. Zhang said it was because good stories have become difficult to find in China. “Good writers have all been signed away by the big companies,” he said, citing the rapid growth and industrialization of Chinese film. “You find a novel you think is good and before you’ve finished reading it, someone tells you it’s already been bought.”
Box office revenue has swelled in China, topping 12 billion yuan ($1.9 billion_ last year as of mid-December, and some have projected the country could be home to more theaters than the U.S. by 2016. That growth–and in particular the emphasis on developing “hardware” like movie theaters–is one reason Mr. Zhang is pessimistic about the effort to make Chinese films globally competitive. The country simply can’t produce enough good directors–and hence good movies–to fill the screens, he said.
“In China we have a saying: ‘It takes 10 years to nurture a tree but a hundred years to cultivate people,’” he said. “If someone says ‘In three years, we we’ll build 8,000 theaters’ that’s no problem. But if you say ‘In three years, we’re going to produce eight good directors’ — I think that’s impossible.”
The director describes the Chinese film industry as a “bubble” and said he supported the Chinese government’s efforts to exert more financial control over the industry, which include a recent proposal by the country’s film regulator to put a cap on ticket prices. At the same time, he said, the government needs to loosen controls over the content of films. “If you want to make good movies, this is an important condition,” he said.
Would Mr. Zhang consider going to the U.S. to make movies? “That depends,” he said. Working with Mr. Bale had given him “a little experience” with Hollywood, he said, “but that experience isn’t worth much” when it comes working in an entirely different culture. “I can’t do what Ang Lee does,” he said, referring to the Taiwanese director of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” “I don’t speak a word of English.”
He was likewise lukewarm on the notion of Hollywood film companies trying to tap the Chinese market by making films with Chinese stars. “It’s like the NBA using Yao Ming to get in,” he said, referring to the former star center for the Houston Rockets.
But where the U.S. basketball league has ridden Mr. Yao to commercial success in China, he said, Hollywood studios were likely to find the country a difficult place to operate. “It’s delicate, the politics here are complicated,” he said. “I don’t know whether they can succeed. You have to look a decade, two decades down the road. It’s not the sort of thing that’s going to happen in the next five years.”
– Josh Chin; follow him on Twitter @JoshChin.
- China says Christian Bale should feel embarrassed (pbpulse.com)
- ‘Flower of War’ better as a novel – Zhang Lijia (chinaherald.net)
- China banks on bloody blockbuster to win friends … and Oscars (guardian.co.uk)
- Zhang, Bale blossom together on “Flowers of War” (canada.com)
- ‘The Flowers of War,’ a Chinese Epic With Many Back Stories (nytimes.com)
- Why Zhang Yimou’s movie did not convince me – Zhang Lijia (chinaherald.net)
- Christian Bale Not Worried About Chinese Censorship (perezhilton.com)
- Christian Bale in Close Encounter With Chinese Police State – Wall Street Journal (blog) (blogs.wsj.com)