China Beat: MIB3 is Racist & Zhang Zi Yi's a Hooker...Allegedly
Domestic films are having a hard time at the Chinese box office lately, with Hollywood fare dominating the market place as we enter the summer season. James Cameron's Titanic 3D has now clocked up a staggering US$155 million in China since its release back in April, and continues to do solid business. Marvel's The Avengers has now taken US$84 million in three weeks, which should be encouraging news for DMG Entertainment and Walt Disney China, who are gearing up to start production on Marvel's Iron Man 3 - the biggest Chinese co-production of its kind in Hollywood history. Joss Whedon's superhero showcase is currently sitting in second place in the box office charts, and last week made more than four times as much as its nearest rival, Joe Carnahan's excellent survival thriller, The Grey. The only mainland production in the Top 10 this week is Ning Hao's period caper Guns And Roses, while Taiwanese epic Warriors Of The Rainbow and Hong Kong colonialism drama Hundred Years Of A Floating City, starring Aaron Kwok and Charlie Young, also appear.
Topping the charts this week is Barry Sonnenfeld's Men In Black 3, which opened day and date with the USA and scored a solid US$25 million opening in its first three days in theatres. However, the release has managed to court controversy as it has been revealed that certain sequences were excised from the film by China's censorship body, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), which were deemed inappropriate or offensive for Chinese audiences. Anyone familiar with the film can probably guess the sequences that fell foul of SARFT's editing shears. Early on, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) visit a Chinatown restaurant, managed by Keone Young's Mr. Wu. Not only are Wu and much of his clientele exposed as being extra-terrestrials masquerading as Chinese citizens, but the restaurant is revealed to be serving bizarre and foul-looking alien food (the obvious gag being that most real Chinese cuisine is "weird" and "gross"). Certainly the audience with whom I saw the film here in Hong Kong, which was almost entirely Chinese, fell noticeably silent during this sequence, when up to this point they had been audibly enjoying themselves. Like much of the rest of the film, it wasn't especially funny and if nothing else, the joke felt tired and overcooked, but it does seem a little oversensitive of SARFT to remove the offending footage (reportedly around 3 minutes in total) altogether.
A similar fate befell Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End back in 2007, when Chow Yun Fat had his entire appearance as a malevolent Chinese pirate removed from the film. As Chinese production companies continue to grow and expand their involvement within the Hollywood system, are we approaching a time when big budget Western films will feature only positive and heroic Chinese characters? Does the news of AMC Theaters' purchase by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. mean that in the future, films like Men In Black 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean would not be able to play on home turf if they contain derogatory representations of Chinese characters? At the very least can North American audiences expect a greater number of Chinese language films to find their way on to AMC's screens?
Twitch tends to steer clear of celebrity gossip that does not immediately constitute movie news, but there has been no escaping mainland actress Zhang Zi Yi in the headlines this week, and the explosive allegations levelled at her involvement with high-ranking Chinese government officials. During the high-profile investigation of CPC Chongping Committee Secretary Bo Xilai for all number of accusations running from corruption to abuse of power and even murder, the actress has been accused of prostituting herself to the minister, and other officials, between the years of 2004-2007. Zhang is reported to have accepted an offer to sleep with Bo for CNY10 million (US$1.6 million), and reports suggest that the couple had at least 10 encounters during the aforementioned period. Apparently Zhang is being refused permission to leave the country while she is under investigation, which accounts for her absence from last month's Cannes Film Festival, where her new film, Dangerous Liaisons, had its premiere. Since the news broke, Zhang has threatened to sue Hong Kong-based tabloid newspaper, The Apple Daily, for airing the allegations, although their response has been bullish to say the least, essentially saying "bring it on" to the actress and her threats of legal action, with the paper claiming to have more evidence that they are not afraid to publish.
While allegations of this nature against Chinese actresses do surface from time to time, it is difficult to condemn Zhang if they turn out to be true. If Bo Xilai is found guilty of even a small portion of the crimes attributed to him, then there can be no doubt that he is a man with whom you simply do not fuck. It is hard to believe that Zhang Zi Yi was in much of a position to refuse the minister's advances. Had she turned him down flat, she might very well have seen her career evaporate before pretty much overnight, or suffered a fate even worse. When put into perspective, suddenly the idea of spending the night with a successful politician for a cool US$1.6 million doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.
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