Could a ratings system improve the Chinese film and television industry?

A publicity photo handout for the TV drama Empress of China, which was censored to crop out any regions below women’s necks with exposed cleavage.

ChinaFile:

It all started with plunging necklines. After the sudden withdrawal and subsequent sanitizing of a popular Chinese show, viewers in China have renewed longstanding calls to strip government censors of their power, using one simple solution: a ratings system for television and film. Shortly after its December 21 premier, the series Empress of China rose to swift popularity on the shoulders of beautiful women in expensive period costumes featuring abundant décolletage. But the series was yanked from airwaves shortly after its debut, only to return on January 1 with a glaring lack of cleavage; censors had replaced the more revealing scenes with close-ups cropping out any region below women’s necks. The outcry and downright mockery that resulted says much about why Chinese entertainment continues to fall short of its massive potential.

Soon after Empress‘s inglorious return to the small screen, Chinese social media demanded the original’s return. They argued that low-cut garments were true to the history of that period. They complained the revised show comprised so many head-shots that it might as well be called “The Legend of Empress Big Head.” They posted satirical images of other movies, photographs, and works of art similarly cropped to ridiculous effect, including the Mona Lisa, the statue Venus de Milo, and the former Communist strongman Mao Zedong. Media outlet Sina Entertainment reported on January 5 that viewership has slipped since its post-censorship return to the airwaves, jeopardizing the big-budget show’s profitability.

 

Chinese authorities issued no statement explaining their rationale, but they likely believed Empress to be too salacious for younger viewers. If that were the case, it would have sufficed to rate the series for mature audiences—except China has no such system. A widely read January 3 blog post on Hong Kong-based Phoenix Media explained official refusal to implement a ratings system this way:

Officials believe that “if people are exposed to elegant things, they will become elegant; if they are unable to view vulgar things, they will be cut off from vulgarity.” By contrast, “With a ratings system, there will be both elegant and vulgar things, and ignorant people cannot help but choose what is vulgar.”

The author of the post rejected that logic, positing that a “cultural products rating system” was the only way to resolve the contradiction between “creative freedom” and limits to what some might be able to see.

On January 5, even state news agency Xinhua chimed in. The incident demonstrated that “China’s television and film management process is insufficient,” the Xinhua article asserted, adding that “experts” recommended the immediate adoption of a ratings system in order to “give television market management a ‘law’ to rely upon”—an invocation of the Communist Party’s recent rhetorical emphasis on rule by law. Some were less circumspect. “This whole thing is one big joke,” commented one user of Weibo, China’s largest micro-blogging platform. “The fundamental cause is that our country doesn’t have a television ratings system.”

China’s government has thus far been unwavering. The Xinhua article was later removed, though it can still be viewed on other websites. The adoption of film and television ratings has long been a hot topic in China, so much so that in August 2010, the powerful State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) felt compelled to reject the proposals. And though Chinese netizens have continued to push for a ratings system, no system has yet been adopted. The official argument against a film and television rating system—that it is not “suited” to China because it can not guarantee youth would not be exposed to inappropriate materials—has irked people for years. A popular June 2011 post on discussion forum Zhihu criticized the government’s desire to control even the possibility of young people’s exposure to sexually explicit material. “The Chinese film market is the fastest growing in the world,” the author wrote. “Whether or not to adopt a rating system shouldn’t even be a point of discussion.” Without ratings, and the resulting market segmentation that in turn drives investment and creates a strong business environment, “Chinese movies cannot experience a true artistic and business boom.”

For now, works produced in the West, not to mention the relatively tiny South Korea, continue to outshine Chinese efforts. “Works that are appropriate for everyone are rarely good,” declared Bi Xiaozhe, a prolific editorialist, in a January 5 op-ed syndicated in government mouthpiece People’s Daily. Bi acknowledged that the re-launchedEmpress of China was “now ‘appropriate for all audiences,’” but said “it has also lost its edge.” If classical Western art had to “avoid sex as well as the female body,” Bi asked, “would they still have become classics that have kept their appeal for hundreds or even thousands of years?” To leave a space for the creation of high-quality works—while also satisfying worried parents—China should “emulate the ratings model of Western countries.”

A popular January 6 essay on Weibo titled “Why do Korean Movies Completely Blow Chinese Movies Out of the Water?” partly attributed the success of Korean movies and dramas—hugely popular in China and throughout Asia—to South Korea’s own film and television ratings system. Allowing creators to work “completely without interference,” the author wrote, encourages private investment and drives competition. (For curious readers, a January 4 Sina article estimated what rating the uncut Empress of China might receive elsewhere: TV-PG or perhaps TV-14 in the United States; “15” in South Korea, and an outright ban from Saudi Arabian television.)

However sensible a Chinese ratings system may seem, censors wield the power to pick winners and losers in a massive market, and they are unlikely to part with that authority easily. Until that time, grassroots Chinese will continue to chortle at what they see as SAPPRFT’s prudishness, and imagine a Chinese film and television renaissance that still feels too far away.

HYPEBEAST Essentials: Daniel Wu

Image of Essentials: Daniel Wu

Presenting the Essentials to one of Cantonese film industry’s most illustrious, our latest installment peeps into the travel must-haves of Daniel Wu, a Hong-Kong American actor, director, producer, and model. Trained in the martial art of wushu and a self-professed Jackie Chan fan, Wu has been featured in over 60 films since his debut in 1998, winning a slew of awards in that timespan.

Continuously traveling to and from movie production sites, award ceremonies — such as the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards in which Wu took home honors for Best New Director — or simply traveling to his other residencies in Shanghai and Beijing, Daniel Wu here highlights an assortment of accessories which captures the essential needs for on-the-go traveling.

A standard Macbook Pro, Portenzo covered iPad Mini, and Apple iPhone serve as the necessary traveling Apple trifecta, while a copy of Octane magazine helps to ease the turnover of long, dreary flights. Rounding out Wu’s bag of accessories is a Montblanc pen for quick note-taking, Nike Fuelband, and Lucas Paw Paw Ointment all fitting nicely in a Hex Sonic backpack. Stay updated with Wu via his Twitter and stay tuned for the next installment of HYPEBEAST Essentials soon.

“Crouching Tiger” sequel to premiere exclusively on Netflix

Angry Asian Man: 

Between original content like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix has been making some big moves, and its latest distribution deal could be a gamechanger. The pay service has struck a deal with The Weinstein Company to release its first major feature film: the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

According to Deadline, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Destiny, described as “sort of a sequel” to Ang Lee‘s critically-acclaimed 2000 martial arts epic, will premiere exclusively on Netflix’s subscriber-based video streaming service. The film will also simultaneously open IMAX theaters on August 28, 2015.

The Green Destiny, directed by Yuen Wo-Ping, stars Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, is based on the fifth book in the Crane-Iron Petalogy by Wang Du Lu. (Crouching Tiger was based on the fourth book in the series.)

Yeoh is reprising her role as Yu Shu-Lien. Ang Lee has no involvement in the project.

Yuen Wo-Ping is directing a script by John Fusco, and Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen star. Lee is not involved in this, and the connective tissue is the source material based on the Crane-Iron Pentalogy by Wang Du Lu. Crouching Tiger was the fourth book in the series, and this film is based on the fifth installment, Silver Vase, Iron Knight. Both are from Wu Sia, the centuries-old genre of Chinese fiction that this series is part of. There is plenty of high-wire sword fighting along with the themes of lost love, young love and redemption. Yeoh reprises her role as Yu Shu-Lien, and Donnie Yen plays Silent Wolf. The film is shooting in New Zealand. Yuen is a legendary filmmaker and fight choreographer, and the production team is composed of all seasoned feature players. Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey are producing with Weinstein and The Imitation Game helmer Morten Tyldum is exec producing with Ralph Winter, Anthony Wong and Bey Logan.

Kai Ko, actor arrested with Jackie Chan’s son, released

Taiwanese movie star Kai Ko, cries during a press conference Friday after two weeks in detention. The 23-year-old was arrested on drug charges with Jaycee Chan, the son of martial arts superstar Jackie Chan.

Taiwanese movie star Kai Ko, cries during a press conference Friday after two weeks in detention. The 23-year-old was arrested on drug charges with Jaycee Chan, the son of martial arts superstar Jackie Chan. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

ABC News:

The Taiwanese actor arrested on drug charges along with the son of Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan was released Friday after two weeks in detention, amid a broad anti-drug crackdown in China‘s capital that has ensnared several celebrities.

Kai Ko emerged from a Beijing detention center before dawn and into a scrum of reporters from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Followed to his hotel by the press pack, a visibly agitated Ko challenged one reporter to a fight before retreating inside an elevator.

Kai was considerably more composed at an afternoon news conference in which he appeared with his parents and agent and apologized for smoking marijuana.

I was wrong on this issue. I made a mistake. There is no excuse for it. I was wrong,” Kai said.

I never realized that Kai Ko is more than just a name for myself. It also means a lot to those who support and love me. It was out of my expectations that anything concerning ‘Kai Ko’ could have such a big impact on others,” he said, before bowing with his parents and agent in a sign of contrition.

The 23-year-old was arrested on Aug. 14 along with Jaycee Chan, son of the Hong Kong martial arts superstar. The arrests drew enormous media attention in the Chinese-speaking world and Kai’s news conference came amid speculation about how his career as an entertainer and brand spokesman might be affected.

Police said both actors tested positive for marijuana and admitted using the drug, and that 100 grams (3.53 ounces) of it were taken from Chan’s home.

While Ko was given a sentence of 14 days in administrative detention — standard for those caught doing drugs — 31-year-old Jaycee Chan remains in detention and faces a potentially much heftier penalty for having shared drugs with others.

Chan, whose mother is former Taiwanese actress Lin Feng-jiao, was raised in Los Angeles and has appeared in about 20 films, most of them low-budget Hong Kong and mainland Chinese productions.

Jackie Chan has publicly apologized for his son’s drug use and pledged to work with him on his recovery.

Ko, whose real name is Ko Chen-tung, rode to fame after his 2011 coming-of-age film “You Are the Apple of My Eye.” The role won him a Best New Performer award at the Golden Horse film awards in Taiwan, considered the most prestigious in Chinese-language cinema.

Ko also played the boyfriend of one of the protagonists in China-produced “Tiny Times 3.0,” a huge hit with young female audiences that knocked “Transformers 4” from the No. 1 spot in the mainland’s box office last month.

The arrests of Ko and Chan came amid a major offensive against drug-related crime in Beijing that has seen a 53.2 percent rise in investigations in the city to more than 1,800 since January, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

More than 8,400 suspects have been detained during that time, an increase of 78.7-percent over the same period last year, Xinhua said.

Harry Shum Jr. join “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel

Angry Asian Man: 
Harry Shum Jr., whose moves (and abs) you know and love from Glee, has been cast as one of the leads in the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which started production this week.Yes, there is Crouching Tiger sequel in the works. Directed by master action choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping, the movie is set twenty years after the events of Ang Lee‘s award-winning martial arts drama. The sequel’s cast includes Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role Yu Shu-lien.

 

 

Harry will play Tie-Fang, a kung fu hero who must fight to keep a legendary sword out of the wrong hands:

Written by John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom), the movie is set 20 years after the events of Crouching Tiger and revolves around four heroes of the martial arts world — Silent Wolf, Yu Shu-lien, Tie-Fang and Snow Vase — who must use their courage and skills to keep the legendary sword Green Destiny from the hands of the villainous Hades Dai.

Donnie Yen already is cast as Silent Wolf, and Michelle Yeoh is on board as Yu Shu-lien.

Shum will play Tie-Fang.

The sequel, reportedly titled Crouching Tiger 2: The Green Destiny, is being produced by The Weinstein Company and will shoot in New Zealand and China. Am I the only one who is concerned that script is written by the guy whose credits include that craptastic Jet Li/Jackie Chan movie The Forbidden Kingdom?

Link

BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) presents “All Hail the King: The Films of King Hu”

 

Jun 6—Jun 17, 2014
Part of BAMcinématek

Master of the martial arts movie, Chinese cinematic titan King Hu revolutionized the wuxia/swordplay film, introducing a refined sense of aesthetics, attention to mise-en-scène, and sense of mysticism to the genre that was borne out of his lifelong love for Chinese opera. With its unique blend of thrilling action and dazzling stylistic expressiveness, Hu’s style influenced decades of subsequent Asian cinema.

BAMcinématek‘s full-career retrospective of this “extravagantly talented visual stylist” (Bruce Bennett, The New York Sun) presents his work alongside an international selection of films that either anticipate his inimitable style or bear its influence.

Presented in conjunction with the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York.

All the King’s Men
Wed, Jun 11, 2014

Hu introduced a wry sense of humor into the historical epic form with this lavish, gorgeous-to-behold tale of intrigue, power plays, and elaborate political machinations during the tail end of the Tang Dynasty.

 

The Blade
Fri, Jun 13, 2014

A longtime favorite of Quentin Tarantino, this brutal martial arts film is one of Tsui Hark’s most audacious works.

The Valiant Ones
Fri, Jun 13, 2014

Hu’s last wuxia film is a stylistically innovative tale about a band of warriors battling Japanese pirates that transforms breathless fight sequences into an abstracted rush of rhythm and movement.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Sat, Jun 14, 2014

Contemporary art-house darling Tsai Ming-liang pays poignant tribute to Hu with this entrancing elegy for the golden age of Taiwanese cinema set during the last screening at a crumbling Taipei movie palace.

Dragon Inn
Sat, Jun 14, 2014

A trio of swordsmen and women battle the forces of a powerful, conniving eunuch in this awe-inspiringly ambitious martial arts classic that laid the foundations for decades of wuxia films to come.

Seven Samurai
Sun, Jun 15, 2014

This sweeping chronicle of courage and heroism is one of the greatest movie epics of all time.

 

The Fate of Lee Khan
Sun, Jun 15, 2014

Martial arts icon Angela “Lady Whirlwind” Mao stars in this rollicking, rousing comic adventure about a band of largely female warriors who join forces to stop a Mongol warlord from acquiring a valuable map.

 

 Legend of the Mountain

Mon, Jun 16, 2014

One of Hu’s most visually ravishing works, this supernatural fable follows a scholar on retreat in the mountains who finds himself seduced by ghosts.

 

Raining in the Mountain
Tue, Jun 17, 2014

Intrigue abounds in a Buddhist monastery as a nobleman and a general each conspire to steal a valuable scroll in this virtuoso showcase for Hu’s luxurious mise-en-scène.

 

Check out this link:

BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) presents “All Hail the King: The Films of King Hu”