By SUN WUKONG
CANNES (China Daily Show) – It was supposed to be a typically inspiring festival story: a plucky independent spirit versus a humorless, repressive state. But it didn’t quite work out that way, after the producers of new movie Lust, Lhasa: A Monk’s Tail failed to elicit a single complaint from the Chinese government following its Cannes debut.
Lust tells the profoundly uninteresting story of underage Tibetan Phubar Asphukt, a homosexual monk (portrayed by newcomer Xinggan Pigu) who is forced to choose between his passionate infatuation for a corrupt government official (played by an almost-unrecognizable Chow Yun Fat, in heavy make-up and a fat suit) and loyalty to an avuncular, kindly abbot (Fan Bingbing).
Obscure Chinese indie director Wen Quan had hoped to sell-out in the international French Riviera festival, where such upsets are common fodder for media controversy. Making any film about Tibet is a publicity tactic, historically almost guaranteed to bestow failed directors with fame, fortune and Norwegian political asylum.
Even 2005’s state-sanctioned Peaceful Liberation by Government, directed by the rabidly on-message Lu Chang, still managed to upset government censors by depicting Chinese troops as carrying rifles, rather than flowers and gifts, upon their arrival in 1951.
By contrast, Lust, which producers had hoped to promote as “Brokeback Mountain meets the Dalai Lama” hasn’t aroused Chinese censors, despite strong language and scenes of a strong sexual nature.
“Frankly, it was boring,” recalled Jiang Jun of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, who attended the screening. “I’ve seen it all before. The storyline was one of those loose, unstructured,experiences that puts people to sleep, rather than incites them. I don’t think anybody’s going to understand it. I got it and I still didn’t like it.”
By contrast, a critic from Fores, a US golfing magazine with an anti-communist slant, labeled the film “bold and brave… an eye-opening experience.” But without being officially banned in China, distributors see little hope for the film.
In an ironic turn of events, however the filmmakers have been approached by the Chinese Ministry of Tourism, who hope to buy Lust and repackage it as a promotional film about Tibet. “All we would have to do is remove the sound and shorten it from 2 hours and 40 minutes to about 90 seconds,” Wen sighed. “I’m thinking about it.”
Follow this and other top China news at @chinadailyshow on Twitter