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A knockout year for cinema

[ 2013-12-30 15:56] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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The year 2013 will be remembered for the spectacular takeoff of China's filmmarket, and it will also go down in history as the year bad movies ruled, or at leastshared, the box office and public consciousness as often as, if not more frequentlythan, good ones. Here is the result of painstaking scavenging for somethingvaluable from a big pile of cinematic fluff and trash.

No Man's Land

After spending four years in censorship limbo, Ning Hao's dark tale of man at his mostanimal phase finally sees the light of day. The final three-minute scene is so obviously achange for compromise it should be ignored by sharp-eye cinephiles.

An ambitious lawyer travels to China's hinterland to defend a hard-boiled criminal and getshim off on a technical loophole. On his way back to the big city, he passes a 500-kilometerstretch of "no man's land" where any trace of law and ethics evaporate like water in thedesert. He encounters a posse of colorful types, including his former client. They are all badguys, but so indelible in portrayal the exaggeration becomes fun. The lawyer awakens tothe vestige of humanity lying dormant in himself and takes a fatal diversion from hisrelentless pursuit of fame and fortune.

When Xu Zheng and Huang Bo made this Chinese Western back in 2009, they wereemerging stars. Now, one has helmed the country's highest-grossing movie (Lost inThailand) and the other has firmly established himself as China's best thespian in bothcomedy and drama. The movie has grossed north of 200 million yuan ($33 million).Whatpoetic justice!

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

Stephen Chow elevated himself into a realm of movie gods when his 1994 A ChineseOdyssey became the equivalent of the United Kingdom's Monty Python a cross collegecampuses in China. Chow's retake on the Monkey King story is a 3-D exercise in unalloyedadventure and typical Chow-style humor. This time, it does not have much room forreinterpretation or tea-leaf analysis.

The movie cuts a very thin slice from the literary classic, i.e. the coming together of thethree disciples of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) monk before they embark on their epicexpedition to India, but imbues it with a rich tapestry of details. The three parts vary in toneand length, but who cares? The fun is non-stop and it's closer to Stephen Chow than to WuCheng'en the author of the book, even though Chow worked only behind the camera as thedirector.

Finding Mr. Right

Don't be fooled by the generic title. The Chinese title, When Beijing Meets Seattle, is somuch more telling and titillating. A romantic comedy set largely in Seattle but shot inVancouver, with a few brief scenes in Beijing and New York, it is a tribute to Sleepless inSeattle more than a half-bake remake, with more cynicism of a gilded age.

A Chinese woman is sent by her married and obscenelywealthy boyfriend to the United States to give birth. Whilethere, she very slowly falls for a decent divorced man andrediscovers the values she has given up for material gains. Asa tightly structured love story that closely follows Hollywoodgenre conventions it is backed up with nuanced Chinese waysof communication. But the exotic locale adds to theinternational feel which is deceptive as it is a pure Chinese production an became thebiggest sleeper hit of the year.

Silent Witness

H alf courtroom drama, half suspense, this study in genre filmmaking is tautly woven butbased on an imaginary legal framework. In other words, it is not realistic, but is built on anassumption. Once you accept that, you'll be able to enjoy the twists in the plot and themotivations of every character.

The teenager daughter of a rich businessman is widely suspected of killing her father's pop-singer girlfriend. The truth peels off one layer at a time, until we come face to face with thepossibility that there is a bigger power at play than law, something that touches us infundamental ways. The three leads deliver immaculate performances and writer-director FeiXing exhibits a maturity that belies his newcomer status.

The Love Songs of Tiedan

Hao Jie's second feature suffers the fate of a typical art-house film, which means sinking atthe box office without even a ripple. His debut film Single Men (2010) was a breakoutgarnering a basket of international awards but never attempted to gain approval fordomestic release. As such, it did not need to remove the naughty edges that might haverankled the censors.

In both movies, Hao displays the curiosity of a teenage boy who is just discovering thewonders of sex. Tiedan is an adolescent who falls for a much older neighbor and, yearslater, her daughters. The story is very fluent and full of bawdy humor, yet it lacks the smalldetails that make Single Men so refreshing. There is no ideology in either movie, butsomeone growing out of puberty is not really a subject everyone is comfortable with, and thestory is hard to tell well under the circumstances.

Young Style

Art-house auteur Liu Jie takes a swerve toward commercial cinema, but stops at the mid-point. He fills this coming-of-age story with jokes, but insists on casting non-professional inall the roles except the female teacher. Qin Hailu gets a bunch of hilarious linesadmonishing her students to work tirelessly toward the holy grail for every Chinese high-school student, namely passing the all-important national entrance exam and enrolling in aprestigious university. Here is one: "Sacrifice yourself for the happiness of all your family".

Liu pushes the envelope by dwelling on a teenager's fixation on pursuing his love interest,which is a big no-no under current guidelines of movie content. But he dodges the bullets byhaving the romance as the cause for the protagonists' academic failure hence turning thestory into a cautionary tale. Dong Zijian, son of China's super-agent in the entertainmentindustry, did not disappoint his mother, or the audience. It's a very auspicious debut for aninsider.

Apart Together

Wang Quan'an won a Silver Bear award for best screenplay at the 2010 Berlin InternationalFilm Festival for this film. For whatever reason it did not premiere in China until 2013 - "without any cut or revision" explains the filmmaker - and stil failed to garner any significantbox-office return.

A dexterous account of a newly-married Shanghai couple who were separated in 1949 inthe maelstrom of political upheavals the family drama is full of subtlety punctuated byoccasional bursts of funny melodramatic turns. It features natural dialogue and top-notchperformances all round, especially Lisa Lu and Ling Feng, who play the reunited couple.However, it doe not offer a dramatic climax or any obvious message, political or otherwise,leaving many filmgoers perplexed about the moral of the story. On the plus side, it gives youplenty of room for philosophizing.

Drug War

Hong Kong's reigning king of the gangster genre Johnnie To resisted entering the mainlandmarket for a long time. When he finally did, he did not make too many concessions. As amatter of fact, this film, set and made in the mainland and financed by mainland money,served to widen the boundaries of what a crime drama can depict on mainland screens.

Not only are the drug-taking scenes realistically portrayed, but the heroic cop is more three-dimensional than most characters in this genre. The weakness, this time, lies in theantagonist, the Hong Kong drug-make who gets caught in the opening sequence. Thedirector maintains his fast pacing and his signature violence is also intact, but the storyleaves something to be desired in psychological depth.

So Young

Zhao Wei's directorial debut is a commercial smash, bringing in 700 million yuan at the boxoffice, but it is only three quarters of a good movie. The first 100 minutes, set in a 1990scollege campus, are characterized by fluency and even poignancy. The love story isredolent of the era and its quirks. The female lead, an unknown, reminds one of Zhao'sbreakout TV role Little Swallow, insistent and tomboyish and full of irresistible charm.

Fast forward a decade when the group of college buddies reunite and, strangely, continuetheir unfinished love threads. This part turns melodramatic and wildly uneven in tone. It's asif it were made by a different person or lifted from a different movie, a most disappointingcoda to an otherwise perfect paean to the good old days.

The Grandmaster

Wong Karwai's outing in the martial arts genre is either a masterpiece or a deeply flawedexercise in exerting control over a story beyond his control. The movie has both narrativeloopholes large enough for the whole martial arts academy to march through andcinematography so lush and mesmerizing you'll forget about the story anyway. The titlecharacter disappears for the middle hour, for one. But one thing everyone can agree on:Zhang Ziyi delivers a knockout performance that steals the show and unseats the titlecharacter. The movie is currently on the shortlist of nine finalists for the upcoming BestForeign Language Film of the Academy Awards.

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily )





































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(译者:ChrisJJ 编辑:Julie)