CHINA BEAT: LOVE IS NOT BLIND for 6 million singles
There is only one film people are talking about on the Mainland right now and that's low-budget comedy LOVE IS NOT BLIND. The film, which cost only RMB9 million to produce, has been a colossal hit since opening nationwide on 8 November. Much like the Korean romantic comedy MY SASSY GIRL, the film started out as a hugely popular online blog, written by Bao Jingjing. It tells the story of Xiaoxian, a successful wedding planner who is happy and in love, until she catches her boyfriend of seven years with her best friend. Heartbroken, she begins to keep a diary about being unlucky in love, and the film has been compared favorably to BRIDGET JONES' DIARY.
LOVE IS NOT BLIND was adapted and directed by Teng Huatao and features upcoming stars Bai Baihe, as Xiaoxian, and Wen Zhang as her business partner, who provides a shoulder to cry on that ultimately leads to a newfound romance. The film's release was timed perfectly to coincide with Singles Day, an unofficial holiday on 11/11 each year, where single people get together and celebrate. They each pay their own way as a sign of their independence, while those less satisfied with their single status attend blind date parties in the hope of meeting their special someone. The trend began in the 1990s and this year 11-11-11 is seen as particularly important and has been dubbed "Super Singles Day." In Nanjing alone, it has been reported that 3000 couples got married on Singles Day, about ten times the normal daily figure.
Clearly, LOVE IS NOT BLIND's heroine has resonated with audiences. At the ripe old age of 27, Xiaoxian would be dubbed a "shengnu", or "leftover woman" in more traditional circles, seen as less appealing for marriage than a younger woman. However, growing numbers of single, educated and financially independent shengnu in many Chinese cities have caused academics to champion the phenomenon as a triumph for feminism and progressive thinking. While it is extremely likely that Xiaoxian finds herself a partner before the end of LOVE IS NOT BLIND, her character is part of a growing trend in Chinese Cinema to build films, and comedies in particular, around single women who fall into this demographic.
Whether it has been hordes of empowered single women, new couples out on a first date or simply regular filmgoers looking for a good time, China has embraced LOVE IS NOT BLIND like no other domestic release this year. In its first six days of release it sold almost 6,000,000 tickets and pulled in an astonishing RMB180million (US$28.5 million). That's more than previous chart-topper RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has taken in three weeks, and eclipses Party favourite BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL, which took RMB116million (US$17.6million) in the same period. The film also left the week's other new releases, which included Shawn Levy's REAL STEEL and Tarsem's IMMORTALS, eating its dust. The Hugh Jackman starrer debuted in second place, with RMB56million (US$8.76million), while IMMORTALS landed in third place with RMB33million (US$5.11million).
The other Singles Day themed new release to open was SINGLE NO MORE (aka SINGEL TERMINATOR), a knockabout comedy about a group of singles who set up their own matchmaking website in the hope of finding themselves partners. Rather foolishly the film chose to open actually on 11-11-11, by which time the positive buzz from LOVE IS NOT BLIND ensured that it had an incredibly quiet debut, taking just RMB1.15million (US$0.18million) in three days. Though by the looks of the trailer, it doesn't seem like audiences have missed out on much.
The only other film of note in this week's chart is KORA, Du Jiayi's astounding travelogue drama, which has taken RMB4million (US$0.62million) after eleven days on release. I was fortunate enough to catch the film earlier this month at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival and it is an incredibly impressive piece of work, charting a young Taiwanese man's attempt to cycle 2000 miles from Yunnan to Tibet across some of the most beautiful and hostile terrain in the world. Striking a similar tone to Walter Salles' THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, KORA is about a man who puts himself through incredible personal hardship in one of China's most remote regions in order, ultimately, to find himself. Beautifully shot and courageously performed by Zhang Shuhao, KORA has proved one of the best Chinese movies of the year, although sadly it seems, not one of its most successful. This is a great shame, especially over this particular weekend, as it makes a wonderful statement about what a single individual can achieve, with nobody to rely on but themselves.
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