'Tiny Times' turns up the heat on summer screens
Updated: 2013-07-05 00:03
SHANGHAI - The Chinese domestic film "Tiny Times" has not only blown a Hollywood blockbuster out of the water in Chinese theaters, but it's also introduced controversy and change to the domestic film industry.
The first film from Guo Jingming, an author-turned-director who just celebrated his 30th birthday in June, is an adaptation of the first installation of his literary trilogy of the same name.
As of Wednesday, the film had taken in almost 350 million yuan (57 million U.S. dollars) since it premiered on June 27, besting "Man of Steel" to take the top spot at the box office.
The film revolves around the love lives and budding careers of four female college students in Shanghai who study in a palatial college and reside in dorm rooms decked out in expensive, luxury items.
At least two characters sleep with Hermes blankets, and Louis Vuitton, Dior and other high-end logos pop up regularly, leading some to compare the film to "Sex and the City," without the "sex."
The ostentatious shows of luxury goods and clothing have been criticized for distorting the values of young audiences, as the target demographic for both the novels and the film are people born in the 1980s and 1990s.
Controversy has swirled about whether the materialistic content is appropriate for impressionable young people, and a debate on the matter on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo has drawn considerable attention.
The director, however, said he is "unperturbed" by the controversy. "It is normal for people to pursue a better life and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it," he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on June 3.
Guo, who earned 32 million yuan in 2012, which put him fourth on the 2012 Chinese Writers Rich List, also called himself a "rule breaker" during the interview.
"I am a rule-breaker in every industry," said the writer whose film caused a stir before it even hit theaters, reminding him of a time ten years earlier, when he was facing controversy as a new writer.
"The point is whether it can be unique in audience's hearts and whether it can be memorized. If they think it's too ordinary, it is a failure to me," he said.
"Tiny Times" has been classified as a "chick flick," a genre that mainly features love and romance and is designed to appeal to a largely female audience, especially younger ones, according to industry insiders.
"Film audiences are changing and films are not, it's the elephant in the room that you pretend not to see," Guo said.
A decade ago, China's film industry saw no more than 100 domestic films produced annually and it only netted about 1 billion yuan.
However, data for 2012 show that 900 domestic films were produced and shown on the nation's 15,000 screens, not including documentaries or short films. Also that year, revenues from the film, radio and TV sector hit 34.77 billion yuan, according to official figures.
"The industry witnesses young directors appearing everyday," according to Ren Zhonglun, CEO of Shanghai Film Group.
He added that because of this, the domestic film industry should allow the younger generation to shoot in their own styles without forcing them to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors.
The narrative of today's young people is completely different from that of the older generations, Zhao Changtian, late chief editor of Mengya, a literary magazine popular among adolescents, said in May 2012.
It's not just movies, though. The environment where Guo's peers belong is changing, more independent expression is permitted and encouraged, and a greater variety of dreams is budding, Zhao added.
Or, as Guo wrote in "Tiny Times," "We are just tiny patches of the spacious world, but we cluster, we spin, we unite, turning ourselves into a sparkling giant."