June 1, 2006

Director returns to China the toast of Cannes

BEIJING (Reuters) - Having just returned to Beijing, Wang
Chao said he still feels the pain of Cannes. Not from a
disappointing showing at the French film festival, but from

"I didn't put on suncream. The sunburn is still really
painful!" he said in an interview at a teahouse.

Wearing a Cannes 2006 T-shirt and a radiant glow from his
spell in the Riviera sunshine, Wang told Reuters that time
spent indoors at the festival was less physically taxing.

"Seeing my film on screen was just great," the
bespectacled, mid-forties director said between sips of tea.

"The audience cheered long and hard after the movie
finished and made Tian Yuan feel just like a big, international
movie star."

The gallery's enthusiasm for Wang's third movie, "Luxury
Car," starring 21-year-old arthouse starlet Tian Yuan, was
shared by critics and judges, garnering best film in the
festival's sidebar category, "Un Certain Regard."

The acclaim will see Wang's story of a fractured rural
family in central China hit cinemas in 15 countries -- and
speaks volumes of the West's infatuation with uncompromising
tales of modern China.

"Luxury Car" -- written and directed by Wang -- is a story
of a man whose wife's dying wish is to see her son.

He returns to the city to search for his son decades after
being banished to the countryside for "political
incorrectness." There he meets his daughter, a prostitute in a
karaoke TV club, played by Tian Yuan.

The film maintains the film maker's fascination with harsh
juxtapositions and shares the theme of "hope born out of bad
seeds" of his previous two films, "Orphan of Anyang" and "Day


But unlike his first two outings, "Luxury Car" has the
green light to screen from China's censors -- despite its
unflattering depiction of the nocturnal world of prostitutes
and gangsters in Wuhan.

"Actually, they didn't cut any scenes," Wang said. "Not
even the ones with prostitution ... Instead they asked for a
few swear words to be taken out. I was pretty surprised."

Wang said five years ago, this movie would never have been
possible, so there's definitely "reason to be optimistic" about
the opening up of China's film industry.

But Wang is more concerned about the home audience's

"The sooner it's released here, the better. It's quite hot
now," he said. "But I'm not very optimistic because a few art
films didn't do too well in China last year."

Still, he will continue to chip away at the mainstream
market with art films -- regardless of local audience's apathy
and sensibilities.

"I hope we can break into the mainstream bit by bit. There
are still people here who like art movies."

While the scholarly director is keen to maintain the
integrity of his films, he said his "trilogy" of dark movies is
over. Audiences might expect more light-hearted movies in

"I never intended to have this trilogy... In fact, I never
intended for this movie to be like this at all."

Originally planning a love story, events in his personal
life threw his direction. Wang's mother fell ill with cancer,
but he didn't find out until after she had recovered.

"I asked my family, 'why? -- 'why didn't you tell me?'...
They said they didn't want to disturb me with my work. It
motivated me to think about other families in China who have
the same situation -- all the young boys and men in China who
leave home to struggle in the city and who have little chance
of going back."