CHINA BEAT: Tsui Hark & Bona Exploring 3D Together

James Marsh, Asian Editor
This week Chinese film giant Bona Film Group announced that it plans to shoot two new films in 3D this year. Tsui Hark will direct a remake of the 1960 film Tracks In The Snowy Forest, while Jacob Cheung is on board to helm White Hair Witch, a retelling of The Bride With White Hair. This news comes after the phenomenal success of Bona's previous foray into the technology, Tsui Hark's Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which not only amassed over US$100 million at the Chinese box office, but also displayed Tsui's keen understanding of how to get the most from the added depth of field.

Like many, my views on 3D are that it is basically an unnecessary gimmick we can all do without. At a time when cinema attendances were frighteningly low, the championing of 3D as a new filmgoing experience that could not be matched in the home drew filmgoers back to the multiplexes. The push from the major studios also forced cinema chains around the world to go digital, which will drastically cut distribution costs in the future. The aesthetic benefits of 3D, however, have been made obvious all too slowly. 3D only ever seems to bring anything positive to our movie experience when the film was shot that way in the first place and the director in question actually understands how to use it to his or her benefit. 

With Flying Swords, Tsui proved that he did understand how to utilise this extra dimension to his cinematic frame, and the news that he will be further exploring the technology has me interested. Bona also revealed that they will be investing in a new digital film technology centre, situated in Tianjin. Both films will apparently be shot at the facility, making full use of 3D equipment, but also the invaluable knowledge Tsui has gleaned from his previous production. However, before he gets started on Snowy Forest, Tsui is to direct the sequel to Detective Dee - surely a project that is screaming out to be shot in 3D!

Incidentally, Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate will be opening across North America in IMAX 3D, courtesy of Indomina Releasing, in September and ranks as one of China's very best films of 2011. Do not miss out on the chance to see it on the big screen!


At the domestic box office last weekend, Joss Whedon's superhero spectacular The Avengers made a predictably strong opening, finally knocking Titanic 3D off the top spot, taking US$20 million in its first two days. James Cameron's resurrected behemoth has now taken US$150 million in China after four weeks, and is likely to be around for some time to come. Peter Berg's Battleship is also doing healthy business and had taken close to US$50 million as of last weekend, while the strongest Chinese language performer remains Ning Hao's Guns And Roses.  

If you have read my review, you will know that I am not overly enamoured by Ning's latest effort and felt it marked a noticeable shift away from his usual brand of edgy, anarchic underworld antics towards something with a more mainstream feel to it. This sentiment seems to have been echoed by the film's respectable box office performance. Guns And Roses (surely a title it will have to drop when it ventures overseas) made $US20 million in its first two weeks, more than four times as much as any of its May holiday rivals. No doubt there will be a number of interested parties heading out to Cannes for the film market next week, who will be gunning to pick up distribution rights for this one. However, it feels too much like Let The Bullets Fly lite to me.


The other holiday openers, Yang Shupeng's An Inaccurate Memoir and Hu Guan's Design of Death have only managed to accrue less than US$7 million between them, while Eng Dayyan's oddball superhero comedy Inseparable, starring Kevin Spacey and Daniel Wu, appears to have fallen on its face. In its first three days on release it hasn't even managed to make US$1 million, and will most likely disappear without a trace this weekend. This will no doubt prove a big disappointment for its backers, although not much of a surprise. Word from Pusan, where the film debuted last October, was tepid to say the least. 

That said, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for potential cultural crossover projects such as this. China has plenty of money to throw around and putting Hollywood A-list talent in their films is a great way of raising their profile overseas. Just look at Zhang Yimou's The Flowers Of War. It didn't need any help domestically, but having Christian Bale in a pivotal role certainly attracted more attention to the film internationally. Working in China might become the new equivalent to doing TV commercials in Japan - something big name stars do for some quick pocket money, but don't like to talk about back home. Or perhaps, with the number of China-Hollywood co-productions on the horizon, working in China may become increasingly commonplace.
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  • Jimmy-G

    Actually, if you did your research and not just make assumptions, you'd realize what the major Chinese press in China have already said: the reason for Inseparable's box office had to do with the timing and incompetence of the new-to-the-business backers that financed and distributed the film which had virtually no advertising. Released a day before Avengers, with not a single bus stop poster anywhere to be seen, don't know what they thought they were doing. And as for Pusan where the film premiered in 2011, the Chinese reviews were very good, have you seen the movie or are you just making biased assumptions based on what little you could find in English? Expected more from this site when it came to Asian films.

  • Cuttermaran

    I felt like the soul of the earlier Tsui Hark is missing in Detective Dee and Flying Swords. In my opinion 3-D gave nothing to Flying Swords, it made it pretty lame instead (Freeze frames in 3-D look awful, the editing is less dynamic...) I wish for more innovative storytelling wich concerns the chinese modern society and adrenaline driving action like it was made 10 years ago in Time & Tide. IMO 3-D will not benefit Tsui Hark, except financially maybe.

  • markc

    any more info on the new Dante Lam crime film that Bona has planned?

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