“City of Life and Death” resurrected in N. America [Film Business Asia / Sweet & Sour Cinema]

I encourage everybody interested in Chinese cinema, or great world cinema, to check this one out. It’s the best film that’s been released in China during the several years that I’ve been living here. I’ll try to see if I can’t kick out a review one of these days now that it’s slated for a much-delayed US release – Zuo Shou 做手

December 29, 2010

by Stephen Cremin

~ Distribution News ~

Kino International has picked up North American distribution rights of Lu Chuan’s (陸川) wartime drama City of Life and Death (南京! 南京!).

Lu’s critically acclaimed film, shot in black-and-white, depicts the Nanjing Massacre from the perspective of several characters including a Japanese soldier, a Chinese prostitute and a foreign diplomat.

Released in China in Apr 2009, the film grossed RMB172 million ($26 million) theatrically. It premiered internationally at the Toronto festival before winning the top prize at San Sebastian in Sep 2009.

The film has had a troubled history in North America.

In Aug 2009, National Geographic Entertainment announced that it had acquired the film for North American distribution but the deal was never closed leading to the cancellation of its scheduled March release.

In Jan 2010, the film was one of two Chinese titles pulled from the Palm Springs International Film Festival in reaction to the Californian festival’s screening of a documentary about the Dalai Lama.

Kino plan to release City of Life and Death at New York’s Film Forum, the theatre originally booked by National Geographic, on 11 May. Kino also plans to release the film in Canada.

Chinese titles distributed by Kino International include Chen Kaige’s (陳凱歌) Life on a String (邊走邊唱, 1991), Yim Ho’s (嚴浩) The Day the Sun Turned Cold (天國逆子, 1994) and Li Yang’s (李楊) Blind Shaft (盲井, 2003).

Article link: http://www.filmbiz.asia/news/city-of-life-and-death-resurrected-in-n-america

~ Also see: “Lu Chuan’s WWII Film to Head for N. America” [CRIEnglish.com] – http://english.cri.cn/6666/2010/12/30/1261s612603.htm ~

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One Response to ““City of Life and Death” resurrected in N. America [Film Business Asia / Sweet & Sour Cinema]”

  1. Thanks for this note. If it gets a Los Angeles release I’ll be sure to see it.

    I’ve been a fan of Chinese cinema since the 1980s when I saw such films as UNDER THE BRIDGE, AT MIDDLE AGE and others. UNDER THE BRIDGE helped explain the challenges, cultural and political as China opened up to small private businesses. Since then, of course, China has become a factor on the world economic stage. Talk about a great leap forward!

    Just last week I was delighted to see a Chinese film here in Los Angeles which opened here almost the same day it opened in China. Called IF YOU ARE THE ONE II, it dealt with a May-December relationship and included a sub-plot in which a wealthy businessman, confronting his immanent death from cancer, looks reflectively back at his life. It was a sequel, but I’d never heard of the first part, and this stood alone without difficulty.

    As if it were the most natural thing in the world, the man facing death recounts that his 14 year-old daughter is reading Capital and, in writing a class paper, the girl said that Marx had done an “awesome” job on the Communist Manifesto.

    The movie also presented magnificently panoramic views of both big city life and rural vacation spots. Surely there’s more to contemporary China than that, but the image here was of lush modernity, though, at the same time, not of opulence.

    This movie was presented on a giant screen in the predominantly Chinese Monterey Park neighborhood, and I was the ONLY non-Chinese person in a nearly packed auditorium with three hundred seats at 4 PM on a Friday afternoon. I’d only learned about the movie via a nearly buried and not overly enthusiastic review in the Los Angeles TIMES, which I’ll share below.

    It is true that the movie’s tone shifted from comedic to darkly reflective toward the end, but no one seemed in any way disappointed when I saw the movie. I know I wasn’t at all disappointed. My guess is it’s getting terrific word of mouth among Chinese residents here in Los Angeles.

    Today I called the AMC theater and they told me the movie is doing great business and will probably be there at least two weeks and maybe more.

    You can get a bit more of a sense of this movie from the articles on it in the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY, show business trade journals, whose articles I will link here.

    HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/2-dec-24-release-60262

    VARIETY
    http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117944229?refcatid=1270&printerfriendly=true

    LOS ANGELES TIMES
    Movie review: ‘If You Are the One 2’

    http://articles.latimes.com/print/2010/dec/24/entertainment/la-et-fei-cheng-20101224

    A May-December romance that started in the first movie moves to a matrimonial phase in this sequel. The Chinese film has a gorgeous setting and a mildly charming plot.

    December 24, 2010|By Robert Abele, Special to the Los Angeles Times

    A sequel to one of China’s biggest box office hits, the wry romantic comedy “Fei Cheng Wu Rao 2” (“If You Are the One 2”) — the first Chinese release to open in its homeland and North America on the same day — continues the odd-couple courtship saga of wealthy, middle-aged retiree Qin Fen (Ge You) and serious-minded young air hostess Xiaoxiao (Shu Qi).

    After an amusing prelude in which Qin presides over a lavish divorce ceremony for an amicably splitting married couple, he and Xiaoxiao decide to address their own relationship barriers — her youth and beauty, his cynical, childish sense of humor — by entering into a trial marriage while on a trip to the country’s tropical southeast.

    Director/co-writer Feng Xiaogang’s approach to this kind of screwball material is more unhurriedly funny and even melancholic than openly farcical, which is fine, but by setting their hiccupy test-run in Hainan province’s verdant and beachy Shimei Bay, one could be forgiven for briefly losing interest amid the ravishingly photographed (by Lu Yue) vacation-vista porn.

    Less successfully distracting is a drawn-out second-half subplot involving the health problems of a friend of Qin’s. But for the most part this is a mildly charming dose of romantic gloss, anchored well by its appealing stars and the filmmaker’s gentle touch with the inevitable quirks in a seemingly mismatched relationship.

    Box office: ‘Fei Cheng Wu Rao 2’ (‘If You Are the One 2’)

    Unrated; In Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

    Running time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

    Playing: In selected theaters

    calendar@latimes.com

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