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Summer in Beijing, the poster

Reading the news that Cahiers du Cinéma has been bought by Phaidon Press, I realised that although I don’t speak Frence, I do have a copy of this magazine. It must be sometime in 1999, I was told by a friend I knew through Sina’s movie forum that Cahiers du Cinéma had published a special issue about Hong Kong movies. He lived in Paris and kindly decided to sent me a copy of this issue, although we had never met. We did meet when I visited Paris the first time.

Of course I didn’t understand a word of what written in that issue, but one picture struke me. That was a poster of Wong Kar Wai’s planned film Summer in Bejing, a dark glassed, short-trousered Tony Leung Chiu-Wai standing in front of the Museum of Chinese Revolution, looking into a binoculars. The project was laterly dropped and that poster seems to exist just to remind us what could be.

21st Century Chinese Cinema

From BFI website:

Chinese cinema seemed pole-axed in the 1990s by the shift from state control to the private sector, but it suddenly looks rejuvenated. With everything from big-budget spectacles to small, digital indies setting new creative highs, Tony Rayns has curated a selection of dazzling London premieres.

This selection of movies, all but one of them new to London and some well overdue, offers a spot-sample of terrific work in fiction and documentary, mainstream entertainment, arthouse challenges and avant-garde comedy. China still faces countless social and political problems, but its film culture has never been in better shape.

21st Century Chinese Cinema

I went to Alice Lee’s play Dragon Lady: Being Anna May Wong at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The play, written and performed by Alice Lee herself, tells the story of Anna May Wong, the first female Chinese star in Hollywood. The play made me think of Stanley Kwan’s Centre Stage (1991). It’s striking that after 80 years, the current generation of Chinese actors are still fighting the stereotypes of shadowy gangsters, Suzie Wong and exotic kungfu babes.

I met Alice afterwards, who told me the inspiration Anna May Wong gave her and how similiar the struggle she’s facing now. We also discussed the recent “slit-eyed” gesture controversy. Alice later wrote a comment article for the Guardian about the presence of Chinese characters in the western media.

In 1905, a little Chinese girl, Wong Liu Tsong, was born in America. In the 1930s, she became the first American Chinese film star to achieve international acclaim – as the exquisite Anna May Wong. Although she made over 60 movies and mesmerised audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, she is now largely forgotten. Renowned for stealing scenes from her fellow actors, Wong never ascended to the exalted positions achieved by her fellow actresses Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. More surprising still, most modern Chinese people have never heard of her. I can’t help but wonder: is the reason an innate human tendency to bury sad stories? Or is it because we do not want to stir up a storm by examining the issues and realising how little we have advanced?

Being Anna May Wong

Price of perfection

I wrote this on WaterInk, but guess some of the dianying.com visitors may be interested in this as well.

The Olympics has truly become showbiz when the headline is an adoring young girl lip-synced a song by another young girl at the opening ceremony. In the director’s mind, the girl with the best voice has to have the cutest complexion as well. The more baffling part is the director of music of the opening ceremony, Chen Qigang, only revealed this fact as one of the “behind the scene” stories when being interviewed on the radio, as if giving away some “making of” extra like those coming with a film’s DVD releases.

Let’s not forget the opening ceremony was directed by Zhang Yimou, a film director renowned for his pursuit of visual perfection, which is not only about striking prime colours and stuning special effects, but also, perhaps more importantly, the perfect face expression and image composition. Zhang Yimou obviously took the latest challenge of directing the opening ceremony performance as if he was shooting a film watched by 4 billions people simultaneously. Image perfect is the holly grail while conventions and rules were something could be bent and ignored.

And lip-syncing is not so unusual in Chinese cinema. In early Chinese cinema, there were those actresses, like “Gold throat” Zhou Xuan who could act as well as sing, but Chinese audiences largely accepted, even expected, the song they heard was not sung by the leading actor and actress, but someone with better voice. During 1950s and 60s when sing-song movies and musicals were hugely popular in Hong Kong’s mandarin film scene, there was a mixture of popular actresses who did and who did not sing. The fact that an actress could not sing wouldn’t dent fan’s affection, only advanced the career of the singer behind the screen. This tradition continued to 1980s Chinese cinema. When Joan Chen, still a budding young actress, played a soprano and sang “I Love You China” in the film Loyalty (1979) (《海外赤子》), of course everyone understood that was a song by a famous soprano Luo Tianchan.

This may somewhat explain the relaxed attitude Chen Qigang displayed. He certainly didn’t expect such a clever act would be ridiculed, mostly by Chinese internet users. What he seemed not to realize, was that audiences enjoy spectacle and perfection in sports, yes, but a performance replying on unfairly borrowed ability isn’t the message the Olympic Games want to sent out.

Chinatown Arts Space presents
Classic Film, Contemporary Score (UK/China)
In partnership with ROH2 at the Royal Opera House

This classic silent movie from China, Song of the Fishermen (Yuquang qu, Shanghai, 1934) has inspired four of the most exciting British Chinese composer/musicians in the UK: Chi2 (Liz and Sarah Liew), Jiang Li and Kimho Ip, to compose and perform together the world premiere of a new contemporary score accompanying a special screening of the film.

Song of the Fishermen enjoyed success as the first social-realist film in the history of Chinese cinema, and won the first international prize for a Chinese film at the 1935 Moscow Film Festival. The film is an emotional story of social injustice full of action and melodrama, offering an exciting challenge to the contemporary interpretative vibrancy of British Chinese musicians.

The four British Chinese composers have independently explored the fusion of contemporary music with traditional Chinese instruments. This dialogue between past and present, between East and West, provides a fascinating insight for London audiences.

Produced in Shanghai by the Lianhua Film Company, 1934

Tickets: £12, £5 standing (£8 students and ROH Access List)

This gallery will have posters of 1970’s Hong Kong movies.

Blood Brothers poster (1973)

A new yearly film production list is available. You can access the list from each film title page, by clicking the production year. Films are listed in 5 separate categories:

Feature/fiction film (feature-length fictional film), also including musical, Chinese opera film, stage performance recorded on film;

Short fictional film;

Documentary, including documentary, docudram, short documentary, newsreel, educational film etc.;

Animation, including feature-length animation, animation with live action, short animation film;

TV programme, including TV series, TV serial (mini-series), single TV drama, TV movie, and TV entertainment programme.

You can also access the yearly production list from the updated Yearly production statistics page, which lists the numbers of films made each year from 1905 to present.

Yearly Chinese film list

Anna May Wong (黄柳霜), a thrid generation Chinese-Amercian, was the most admired Asian actor in western cinema, starring in a number of films both in Hollywood and Europe, from 1920s to 1960s. A new documentary about her, Frosted Yellow Willows - Anna May Wong, Her Life, Times and Legend, made by Elaine Mae Woo (胡美金), will be shown at National Portrait Gallery on Friday 8th Feb (020-7312 2463) and at BFI Southbank on Saturday 9th Feb (020-7928 3232).

Mattew Sweet writes about Anna Way Wong’s life on the Guardian: Snakes, salves and seduction:

In 1933, Doris Mackie of Film Weekly magazine visited Ealing studios to observe the shooting of a sweaty tropical melodrama called Tiger Bay, and found its star railing against cinema in general and Hollywood in particular. “Why is it that the screen Chinese is nearly always the villain?” asked Wong. “And so crude a villain. Murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass. We are not like that. How should we be, with a civilisation that is so many times older than that of the west?”

From LinkChinese UK News

To submit reviews and plot summaries, please press the ‘Add/Correct information’ button under every film title.

Latest movie reviews and plot summaries.2007-09-13lastestreviewsen.jpg

A new page has been added to list the Chinese language film production year by year. This includes all spoken Chinese languages, from Mandarin/Putonghua to several dialects, as well as early silent films. This is a list of feature length fictional films. Not included are TV programmes, short films, documentaries, newsreels, and animated films.

Since this is a Chinese language film list, a small list of non-Chinese language films are not included.

Films in production are not included as well. There are more than 100 of thems at the moment.

The total number is 16038 on 12 Aug 2007.

Here is the numbers of film production in decades. Go to the “year by year” page to see the full list:

2000-present: 1247
1990’s: 2664
1980’s: 3353
1970’s: 1852
1960’s: 3287
1950’s: 2413
1940’s: 669
1930’s: 646
1920’s: 523
1910’s: 9
1900’s: 9

The up and down of the numbers per decade reflects the high and low period of Chinese film production, for example, the early boom in 1920-1930’s, Second World War, another booming period in 1950-1960’s, almost non-production 1970’s in China, production peak from 1980’s to early 1990’s, etc.

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