Feb 5, 2008


There are currently two major films in production which are based on classics of Chinese literature that should have broad appeal in the West.
One is Forbidden Kingdom, which teams up Jet Li with Jackie Chan for the first time. The movie appears to be about a little white boy who gets sucked back in time to Ancient China and has to save the Monkey King, and is loosely based on Journey to the West.

After the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one would expect there to have been more American productions like this. Instead, Miramax quickly gave theatrical releases to older films they held distribution rights to such as Iron Monkey, and snapped up rights to other wuxia style films produced in China or Hong Kong such as Hero. As far as I can tell, this is the first movie since then that is actually an U.S. production with an American director (Robert Minkoff, director of The Lion King and Stuart Little). I wonder why it took eight years to get a film made that follows the tried and true formula of a Caucasian Male who becomes part of an exotic culture and becomes, you know, the best one (see Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai or even that Chronicles of Narnia movie).

It is too bad they didn't get Stephen Chow to play the Monkey King. A Chinese Odyssey was the bomb!

The other movie based on a classic of Chinese literature is John Woo's Red Cliff, based on events from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Not only will it be John Woo's first Asian production in 15 years, since Hard Boiled, it will be his first martial arts/historical drama type film in nearly 30 (assuming his last was Last Hurrah for Chivalry, did he make any after that? I do not believe so, but I may be wrong.).

This movie looks totally epic.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou has mentioned in several interviews ( here is one) that the reason he has made so many high-profile, epic martial-arts style films in the last few years (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) rather than less kinetic drama such as Raise the Red Lantern (a perfect film), or the more recent Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, is that it is difficult to get funding for any other types of movies, and he wants to make profitable movies in order to keep the domestic film industry in China alive and well for the new generation of Chinese film makers.

Hopefully these high profile films will aid Yimou in his cause, and increase interest in Chinese literature and history.

Incidentally, Yimou is going to be co-directing the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics.

This is a man who knows color and spectacle. It should be awesome.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Sam are you studying/did you study Chinese film at UW?!? because that's what I'm doing. Weird.