By Ruan Shili
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – The set-up may seem familiar to film fans: a pair of femme fatales, vast riches and a villainous male standing in their way.
But the Sino-side update of crime classic Bound (1996) will feature “Chinese characteristics”: the plot now revolves around a pair of rival sisters, whose exquisitely bound feet compete for the attentions of a wealthy Manchurian warlord in 1914 China.
“It’s a much more interesting story than the original, which was about lesbians, betrayal and the Mafia,” explained Hong Kong director Danny Chao, adding, “The new version features rampant calligraphy.”
Chao’s film is part of a cinematic renaissance spearheaded by the Chinese government, whose plan to make China “a socialist cultural superpower” was unveiled at the latest Central Committee plenum in late October.
Aftershock director Xiaogang Feng is already hard at work on The Towering Inferno (Safely Extinguished), which revisits the downtown Beijing 2009 CCTV fire and uncovers the tale of an upright government official (Andy Lau) battling to save office workers from a group of disgruntled Japanese fireworks salesmen.
Other potential hits include Citizen Kong – starring Chow Yun-fat as a dying Confucian scholar, desperate for a last tap of former mistress “Rosebud” – and Titanic, an epic weepie about a pair of doomed lovers who meet on an “uncrashable” high-speed train.
This is not the first time Beijing has plundered Hollywood’s back-catalog in search of inspiration to revive its own flagging film industry, however.
During the 1960s, the rights to a numbers of Oscar-winning classics were stolen and completely re-shot to incorporate a Maoist aesthetic: the James Dean hit Rebel Without a Cause became Red Guard classic Public Servant With Noble Intention (1965) while the retitled A Rickshaw Named Contentment (1967) arguably speaks for itself.
Many of these remakes went on to become extremely popular in China. Harmony on the Bounty (1977), for example, proved a huge success with both the public and the censors.
“Pass the scurvy!” declared the People’s Daily film critic upon the film’s release. “For here’s emphatic proof that the US piracy in the motherland’s South China Seas is no longer a match for a crew of hardened seamen with socialist longings.”
But despite the most stringent re-branding efforts, some of today’s remake projects seem unable to shake off what officials once called the “spiritual pollution” of their origins.
An early cut of Zhang Yimou’s Mr Lin Goes to Zhongnanhai, for example, recast Frank Capra’s 1939 feelgood classic as a cautionary tale about the dangers of political reform, with Lin — played by a thoughtful Guo Degang — now a disillusioned peasant-with-a-petition, shown regretting his destabilizing ways as he languishes in a black jail. Censors eventually decided the film was too uplifting.
And the Huayi Bros production Some Like it Hot Pot (tagline: “Spice up your Spring Festival with a little transvestism in your hogwash oil!”) seems forever bound for the cutting-room floor, after star Ge You admitted in interview that he now preferred wearing his character’s female costumes in real life.
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And look for the following at your nearest Wanda Multiplex soon:
Not to be confused with Blind Shaft, this Chinese remake of the 1970s hit hopes to launch a new genre – “Uighursploitation.” Shaft is a wisecracking private detective who won’t stop till he gets his man — but after investigating a series of ethnic arson attacks, he agrees he’s better off just leaving the case well alone. A sequel, Shaft in Africa, is in the works.
This line-for-line indie remake of the 1970s Oscar-winner stars renowned character actor Alec Su playing an unusually upstanding Yunnanese Tobacco Bureau chief.
The Grapes of Benevolent
Has there ever been a better time to revisit Steinbeck’s masterful tale of a migrant worker family, fleeing the West across a lush Jiangsu landscape into the arms of a group of benevolent Wenzhou money lenders?
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