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Love beneath the gingko
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-25 08:08

Yu Feihong expresses her inner self in her latest movie, Eternal Beloved, a tragic romance. In addition to the film being her first as a director, Yu plays two roles.

"My philosophy about love is similar to the roles. But my personal life is quiet and not dramatic, so I wanted to express my opinion of an ideal and simple love through a movie," Yu says. "I strongly believe in fate. I am still single and waiting for the right person to come."

The movie centers on a 50-year romance between the dead and the living. Duan Yihong plays A Ming, who promises A Jiu (played by Yu) he will reunite with her under the ginkgo tree after death. He waits for 50 years to meet up with A Jiu, who becomes Xiao Yu (also played by Yu) in her second life.

"It is not just love they are looking for. They are looking for closure and relief. The story shows that even if you are apart because of destiny and space, love is eternal - even though the ending is not what you might expect," she says.

 Love beneath the gingko

Actress and director Yu Feihong on the sets of Eternal Beloved. File photo

The movie is based on the short novel, Ginkgo, Ginkgo, written by Shanghai-based author Xu Lan, in 1990.

"When I first read the novel, I just wanted to kill some time on the flight," Yu recalls. "But the story lingered in my heart for 13 years. It was like a date between the story and me."

At first she tried to persuade others to do the film, but finally she was persuaded by her friends to do it herself.

"A friend of mine said, 'Since you are so in love with the story and understand it well, why not shoot the movie yourself?' Then I started to do the script four years ago," Yu says.

Being a first time director brought out other aspects of Yu's character. "You have to fully prepare, physically and emotionally. As a director you have to take care of the smallest details, which is really something," she says.

"As an actress I am freer. I don't like talking too much in the spotlight. But as a director, I have to take care of everything, like a mother."

With a 40 million yuan ($5.85 million) budget in place, the crew traveled around China looking for the most suitable site. They finally spent two years in Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la, Yunnan province, shooting the movie.

Yu, 38, made her name in Hollywood by playing Ying Ying, a young mother who drowns her baby after betrayed by her husband, in The Joy Luck Club (1993), by Chinese-American director Wayne Wang. She was still a student at Beijing Film Academy then. Early fame brought her a role in Tian Di, costarring Andy Lau, and other TV series.

Ten years ago Yu appeared in the TV drama Qian Shou, or Hand In Hand, playing a white-collar worker who has a love affair with a married man. The drama swept the country then and made Yu famous. But the actress kept a low profile and seldom appeared in public.

Love beneath the gingko

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, director Wayne Wang's return to work in 2007, lured her back to the silver screen. In the father-daughter relationship movie, Yu plays Yilan, an Americanized girl who has just got divorced. Her father, a retired widower from Beijing, arrives to visit her.

"I like intimate stories with subtlety. That is why it was difficult for me to leave the characters behind," she says. "Everyone has different views about love and expression. I am impressed by the characters' determination and passion for love. They made me believe that true love does exist."

Eternal Beloved is scheduled to open near Chinese Valentine's Day.

(China Daily 08/25/2009 page18)