Arranged marriage

Updated: 2013-05-03 01:53

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

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Arranged marriage

Sino-Finnish co-production Jade Warrior features Zhang Jingchu. Provided to China Daily

As David Lee puts it, the process of co-producing a movie is to remove its edginess, leaving a work so devoid of oomph that the audience, especially those in China, would never get excited about.

"The story in a co-produced film is bound to be weak. The executives of a studio love the concept, but audience members do not give a damn that it's a co-production or not," he says.

As comedies, the above movies are extremely sensitive to cultural nuances. A gag in one culture may simply look stupid in another. And anything that is not physical comedy may get lost in translation. As a matter of fact, comedic sensibility is like local anesthesia. It varies from place to place, even within one country.

When producer Bill Kong suggested to Xue Xiaolu, writer-director of Finding Mr. Right, that the latter do a romantic comedy in the spirit of Sleepless in Seattle, she responded to her Hong Kong boss that kind of love story would look ridiculously naive in an age of cynicism, which the mainland is obviously in right now. So, she opted for a love story much less pure but realistic enough to click with the mainland audience.

A typical Hollywood franchise film does not need Chinese elements to conquer the Chinese market. A Chinese element often feels like an awkward bow of condescension. And a Chinese movie had better serve the domestic market first. If a genius like Ang Lee cannot design a movie to straddle East and West (he did it by artistic integrity, not commercial calculation), you'd better just leave it to chance.

Maybe the unity of artistic vision will be so convincing that the story ends up gaining a mass appeal in another culture. But as it stands, co-production is not a way out. It is more a cul de sac.

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