Why “Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection” has taken China by storm (The Guardian)

1 August 2012 12 h 27 min Comments Off

Following China’s ban on foreign films, Painted Skin 2 has become the country’s highest grossing local film of all time – and it’s female viewers who are boosting its sales

Even “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t dark enough to slip through a Chinese blackout. Christopher Nolan’s big finale recently got the thumbs up from the Beijing censors – but the ban on foreign films that started on 25 June means it has to wait its turn for a cinema slot. But what’s bad news for angsty Gotham billionaires is happy days for human heart-quaffing fox demons; part of the reason why the Chinese government periodically imposes these restrictions. Supernatural romance sequel “Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection”, released three days after the ban, became the first local film in nearly six months to sit on the No 1 spot.

It did a bit more than that, in fact. Not only was it China’s third highest opening weekend ever (300m yuan/$47m, behind Titanic 3D and the third Transformers), but it’s now the highest grossing local film of all time, too ($111.8m to date).

Directed by Mongolian-born up-and-comer Wuershan, it’s a throwback to the heyday of the 90s Hong Kong supernatural titillator: actor-singers Zhou Xun and Zhao Wei play the aforementioned fox demon and a disfigured princess who, competing for the attention of a local frontier general, end up trading bodies. Think a Taoist Face/Off, with shimmery underwater sapphic writhings instead of showers of slow-mo bullet casings.

The Hollywood Reporter praised Painted Skin 2′s “unbridled visual creativity”, while shrinking from its more retrogressive elements, especially the depiction of some eye-rolling, black-magic-practising barbarians who were “a laughable throwback to long-outgrown film stereotypes”.

… / …

Even more of a departure for the industry could be the fact that “Painted Skin 2″‘s backers Huayi Brothers – the country’s largest private media company – avoided the director-centric approach of much Chinese film, and opted to put power in the hands of its producers instead: the Hollywood way. “They executed a market-oriented strategy in their selection of director, their screenplay development, their choice of release date, and their investment and production management,” writes Robert Cain on his Chinafilmbiz blog, “It could have a long-lasting impact on Chinese film production.”

Of course it’s ironic that Painted Skin 2 needed a little old-fashioned government help for this apprentice in Hollywood market-economy ways not to be crushed by the real Hollywood. But that is the kind of paradox China likes to throw up now. Wuershan should know: he has embraced all players. His first film, hyperactive martial-arts comedy The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman, was for Fox International, executive-produced by Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith), while his debut homegrown production yanks him right back towards classical Chinese culture. That always has exotic allure for western audiences; with Ice Age 4 tempting Chinese audiences back to Hollywood, we’ll see how loyal the home crowd are feeling.

Source: guardian.co.uk (31/07/2012)

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