A movie that moves
Updated: 2013-01-13 15:50
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
A couple of weeks before the movie opened, Xu was spotted by paparazzi with another girl, in a supposedly suspicious situation. He later clarified that it was a misunderstanding, but did not respond to claims that it was a marketing ploy for the movie.
While the movie was being shot in Thailand, Huang Bo's role had not yet been cast. "Huang had an extremely tight schedule. He was actually making another picture for us at the time," Wang says. "We sat down with him and talked for eight hours straight until he signed the contract."
With Huang, who is equally comfortable doing comedy or drama, taking the role of villain, the movie could attain "higher energy and higher value", in Wang's words. "As part two of a franchise, everything, not just the budget, must be enhanced," rationalizes Wang, who backed it up with a 15 million yuan marketing budget.
The movie showcases many Thai delights, including its myriad temples, elephant rides, resort hotels, and especially the exotic phenomenon of "lady boys", young transgender men who entertain clients for a living.
Tourism experts forecast that Chinese, in the afterglow of this smash hit, will swarm to the Southeast Asian country for the coming holiday season. Surprisingly, perhaps, Thai government and tourism agencies did not pay a single penny in product placement or tie-in promotions.
"We were very tight in pre-production. We had to shoot everything before the monsoon season. So, we didn't even think of contacting those agencies for sponsorship. Instead, we turned to personal friends for help," Wang says.
In the process of post-production, Xu made a 3.5-hour rough cut.
He was hesitant whether to show it to the boss, but Wang was encouraging: "We've seen lots of rough cuts, and we can imagine how the final cut will look. And all the good things were in there."
After Xu tightened it to around 100 minutes, "the tempo was perfect and there was nothing you could change to make it better."
Xu got rid of some scenes for fear of boring the audience, but he left a couple of scenes where the madcap action is placed on hold and both the characters and the audience can take a respite and reflect on what has just happened.
"The best comedy will not just make you laugh, but use laughter as a means to achieve joy. Tears often accompany this kind of laughter because there is latent suffering, through which audiences will be taken on a journey of discovery and wonderment, and when leaving the theater, a sense of gratification. That is real comedy."
Yet some middle-aged or senior moviegoers have not been moved. Wang says he understands: "Even though it is a family film, we did not focus on the more mature demographic, whom we did not expect would see it."
One academic accused the farce of "propagating bad taste" and "having no use for raising national morals".
To which Xu replies: "I just hope that public attention on this movie will bring more opportunities for my colleagues and will not bring bad feelings, such as suspicion or discord."
With the laurel of "China's top-grossing filmmaker", Xu cautions that he may never be able to top himself at the box office. "But I hope my future movies will be better in quality."
(China Daily 01/13/2013 page1)