As everywhere else, the Chinese movie industry began with the silent black and white movies produced at the beginning of the 20th century, but if we talk about Chinese cinema (including "Chinese-language cinema") it's impossible not to mention the "classics". Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan introduced a new taste to movie-goers with their Kung-fu related movies and widely opened the doors for the Chinese cinema.
A poster of Let the Bullets Fly. [China.org.cn]|
As with every other trend there are always ups and downs. After losing some popularity, starting with the late 80's Chinese directors brought a different light to the phenomenon. There were a lot of prizes for the so called "Fifth" and "Sixth" generations of Chinese movie-makers, including important distinctions at Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Golden Globes, BAFTA, César Award and so on. For various reasons, many of them didn't make the local market, or if they have, they didn't get the same acclaim as outside China but made the western public (re)discover the Chinese cinema. While many low-budget amateur-like films made the top list in Europe and not only, there was a new trend emerging: wuxia martial arts action-romance big-budget high-revenue productions, such as the famous Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and House of the Flying Daggers (2004).
Now there is a new situation: a new movie made all the news just days after its domestic premiere – Let the Bullets Fly. Two weeks later information about the blockbuster being picked up for a remake by a major American studio emerged on the local and international media. Apparently, Jiang Wen himself has been invited to direct the Hollywood version. Of course the genre (action-comedy involving bandits, gangs, westerns-like fights and lot of bullets) fits the American taste and it seems like a good decision. There isn't any official report on the matter yet. However, it will be interesting to see how the original version will be received by the foreign audience. Hopefully, living in China will make the wait for the English subtitled version way shorter as there is no official release date for the non-Asian market. The team behind the movie makes it A-listed: it is directed by a worldwide acclaimed Cannes winner (Grand Prix of Jury for Devils on the Doorstep) and the cast includes famous names such as Chow Yun-Fat.
Besides that, most of the reviews have been positive so far. Being an action-comedy movie makes it even more interesting, as, when it comes to Chinese cinema, we first think about dramas, war or ancient history related movies, martial arts, romance and a lot of swords flying around. Will Let the Bullets Fly satisfy non-Chinese cinema-goers taste or will it remain just another domestic hit? Well, we still have to wait a while to find the answer but till then, to get into Chinese cinema mood... here's a list with films from past two decades that worth being (re)watched:
Ang Lee: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Chen Kaige: Farewell my Concubine (1993)
Cai Mingliang: Vive L'Amour (1994)
Jia Zhangke: Still Life (2006)
Jiang Wen: In the Heat of the Sun (1994), Devils on the Doorstep (2000), The Sun also Rises (2007)
Lou Ye: Suzhou River (2000)
Peter Chan: Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996)
Tian Zhuangzhuang: The Blue Kite (1993)
Wang Xiaoshuai: The Days (1993), Shanghai Dreams (2005)
Zhang Yimou: Red Sorghum (1987), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), The Story of Qiu Ju (1992), To Live (1994), The Road Home (1999), Hero (2002), The House of The Flying Daggers (2004)
Zhang Yuan: East palace, West palace (1996), Little Red Flowers (2006)
About the author:
Bianca Chelu is a Romanian freelancer based in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province. Previously she worked for Time Out Bucharest magazine as an editor and for Teatrul fara Frontiere, an independent theatre company, as a project coordinator.