24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

« Previous | 24 Frames Home | Next »

Cannes 2011: Christian Bale's China movie aims to catch America's eye

May 14, 2011 |  1:15 pm

 

Nanking
The international film business can bridge a lot of cultural divides But can it knock down one of the great walls of cinema culture -- the one that stands between China and the U.S.?

China allows in precious few American movies every year, despite halting efforts to change that, and almost no Chinese blockbusters succeed in North America. But the people behind the Chinese epic "The Heroes of Nanking" hope their movie can help create a new pipeline.

Photos: Cannes Film Festival 2011


The period drama, which tells of an American priest who puts his life on the line during the Nanking Massacre to shelter more than a dozen prostitutes and students, has roots in Chinese history and cinema. And it's based on a popular Chinese novel. But it also stars a Hollywood leading man, Christian Bale, as the priest and is directed by Zhang Yimou, the award-winning filmmaker who came to mainstream prominence in the U.S. when he staged the pyrotechnics of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony and has directed numerous films including "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."

On Saturday afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival, filmmakers gathered at the city's Majestic Hotel to tout the project, at a reception thrown by the newly hired U.S.-based sales agent, who has come on to help the film find distributors around the world. (The company's producer, New Pictures, is also currently seeking U.S. distribution.)

Zhang Weiping, who produced as well as financed the film, said that there was a social component to his piece of entertainment.  "Chinese people love Hollywood movies, but in the West there are a lot of misconceptions about China," Weiping told 24 Frames, speaking through a fellow producer, Chaoying Deng, who was translating.  "We want this movie to give Americans and Europeans a perspective on China and Chinese cinema. We want to communicate with every race and people."

Weiping said he wasn't worried about the historical nuances being lost on a non-Asian audience.  "It's a story about heroism, and everybody can relate to that," he said.

Bale has wrapped his scenes in the movie, which has a shooting schedule of Hollywood proportions -- it began in December and finishes in mid-June. Nearly an entire period city was re-created in a neighborhood of Beijing; filmmakers are relying on physical locations over CGI to enhance the film's authenticity.

While the U.S. has a long love affair with martial-arts films, historical and other forms of Chinese dramas have mainly been confined to a niche audience, along the lines of Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" back in 2007. But filmmakers hope "Nanking" ushers in a new period. "It speaks a universal language, and that makes us hopeful," Weiping said.

RELATED:

Cannes 2011: Israeli cinema tries to turn a corner

Cannes 2011: How will Catholics react to a papal comedy?

Cannes 2011: Finally, the end of secrets on The Tree of Life

--Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A still from "The Heroes of Nanking." Credit: FilmNation


 
Comments () | Archives (13)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Nice piece. Looks like the flick might be a keeper.

It does sound interesting...Christian Bale comes full circle...he got his start in "Empire of the Sun", also set in China...

H
H
H

Once a country's socio-economic development and economic/political prominence increase, so to does its ability to leverage media, its films/entertainment for its image and understanding throughout the world. That's why the world's ills and faults are usually laid at the feet of poor developing countries seen as 'failed states.' China was once considered a 'rogue' country, but Weiping is correct. It's a complex country with a great historic civilization. My point is that the countries that we malign elsewhere also possess the potential for such greatness, and are just as historic.

Hollywood movie or not, it is about time that this horrific story be told in a format readily understandable to the moviegoing public. The Rape Of Nanking was one of the most vile, depraved, and sadistic moments in human history. The wanton, insane violence sickened even Hitler's personal attache' during his assignment to Nanking, and tried to get him to intercede to stop it, to no avail.

Having seen several of Zhang Yimou's films and almost all of Bale's films, I am eagerly anticipating this film and hoping it gets a wide distribution. This collaboration between a visionary director and a superb actor resulted in a beautiful and inspiring work of art, to be sure.

From what I have read in books and seen in documentaries, the story of the Rape of Nanking is brutal and heartbreaking and yet inspirational and heroic. It is a story not commonly known in the West. But hopefully Bale's involvement will prompt many, many people to see this film so they will know the story and gain a wider view of the Chinese and their history.

And I hope that this is the first of many collaborations between Hollywood and Chinese filmmakers. There is an intelligent audience out here waiting to be tapped.

An interesting movie indeed, its a great shift from China's movie niche which is mainly focused on Chinese drama and martial arts..

Having seen several of Zhang Yimou's films and almost all of Christian Bale's films, I am eagerly anticipating this film and hoping it gets a wide distribution. This collaboration between a visionary director and a superb actor resulted in a beautiful and inspiring work of art, to be sure.

From what I have read in books and seen in documentaries, the story of the Rape of Nanking is brutal and heartbreaking and yet inspirational and heroic. It is a story not commonly known in the West. But hopefully Bale's involvement will prompt many, many people to see this film so they will know the story and gain a wider view of the Chinese and their history.

And I hope that this is the first of many collaborations between Hollywood and Chinese filmmakers. There is an intelligent audience out here waiting to be tapped.

I am always surpised when articles say a certain Chinese person "became known when....." since I Love Chinese films amongst many other countries works. But I always applaud that at least their works are becoming better known. It'd be nice for an article relating the many US/China films that have been done all the way back to the 1950s & maybe earlier....

Hints: Clark Gable in Hong Kong
Steve McQueen in Shanghai on a river
Gregory Peck & Grace Kelly was it saving orphans
The female director/actress Luo Yan & Willem Dafoe
It's not North America but So America in HAPPY TOGETHER by Kargai but definitly a crossing film.... in many ways ;;}

Always wondered so just checked:
THE GOOD EARTH 1937
mostly filmed in America but also in Beijing & Soochow [sic old spelling]

While Ms Buck did not approve of the Kaisheks & Tu's taking over Chinese power/politics I'll guess this film helped to send a lot of American money to Chinese War efforts.

Tying in with Nanjing I'd like to see a Truth film on the Kaisheks & Tus' embezzlement of possibly Billions of Chinese & American dollars. Does this film on Nanjing mention the Kuommanting abandoning the city, with American war machines, to the Japanese invasion?

You neglect to mention whether the film is in English, or Chinese with subtitles.

That picture of Mr. Bale in a black priest robe somehow makes me half expect him to suddenly turn into the dark knight and kick some bad guys around. Some of my favorite movies are foreign - especially the black and white samurai movies from Japan during the 50s and 60s. (check out "Ugetsu" on Netflix streaming) Mixing a 'A list' Hollywood actor to act in a foreign film is the fastest way to a new market and to break old stereotypes. Look forward to this when it comes out.

The film will be in both Chinese and English - 60 and 40 percent, respectively.

The rape of Nanking ( Nanjing) by the Japanese Army is very much to this day still in the thoughts of young and old Chinese. While perhaps a largely over looked event in history, I'm happy to see its story told through film. One hopes that with Zhang Yimou in charge the story will stay as close to actual historic events as possible. Also for those traveling to China, Nanjing you should explore Nanjing as its a great City, full of history & culture, but often overlooked. Those interested in exploring this event more you can explore the perhaps aptly named (in English) "Massacre Museum" dedicated to rape of Nanking. This museum is as moving as any museum I've visited around the world.


Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video







Categories


Archives
 



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: