Shanghai premieres are Skin deep
By Stephen Cremin
Sun, 17 June 2012, 09:15 AM (HKT)
The Shanghai International Film Festival 上海國際電影節 (16-24 June) opened last night with the world premiere of Painted Skin: The Resurrection 畫皮Ⅱ attended by its stars Vicki ZHAO 趙薇, CHEN Kun 陳坤 and Mini YANG 楊冪.
The event is screening another 280 feature films over nine days in 28 cinemas across the city. The Asian lineup includes 48 contemporary films from China, 24 films from Japan and 12 films from South Korea, including closing night gala Architecture 101 건축학개론.
(There are seven films apiece from Thailand and India, but the rest of Asian is poorly represented. There are just two films from each of Taiwan, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and only single films from Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam. There are no films from Australia, New Zealand or the Philippines.)
It's unusual for the festival to be bookended with Asian feature films. Although the event has in some recent years opened with local films — often kept under wraps until just hours before the opening ceremony — it has typically closed with a high profile American or European title.
Recent Hollywood studio films are generally less visible in this year's selection. Previously, US studios used the festival as a gateway for distribution in China. But with market share of US films approaching 80% this quarter, there is no lack of Hollywood films on China screens.
(The Shanghai Film Art Center, the festival's main venue, is simultaneously screening several blockbuster US films on regular release — including The Hunger Games, Men In Black 3 and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted — and will open Pixar's Brave mid-festival.)
Ticket sales have become an important revenue stream for the festival, which has a smaller budget than the Beijing International Film Festival 北京國際電影節, the upstart event that held its second edition less than two months ago with the full backing of Beijing City, the political heart of China.
Shanghai organisers claim that 149,714 advanced tickets had been sold by the eve of the festival, down from last year's estimated tally of 175,000. With ticket prices ranging from RMB40 (US$6.30) to RMB60 (US$9.40) that represents more than US$1 million in box office revenue.
Visiting guests — who are restricted to just ten movie tickets throughout the festival — have almost no access to sold-out screenings, including competition films. Confusingly, there is no printed schedule currently available in either English or Chinese, although information is online.
(Japanese films were among the first to sell out, including Always: Sunset on Third Street 3 ＡＬＷＡＹＳ 三丁目の夕日’６４, From Up on Poppy Hill コクリコ坂から (2011), A Ghost of a Chance ステキな金縛り (2011), The Wings of the Kirin 麒麟の翼 (2011) and competition title Key of Life 鍵泥棒のメソッド.)
SIFF still maintains its position as one of the world's best festival to catch up with contemporary Chinese cinema, with a broad lineup of films that rarely travel overseas. About one quarter of the films have already been released theatrically in China, with some still showing in cinemas.
But apart than the opening gala, the festival has failed to secure screenings of the other high profile local films opening in the coming weeks including CHEN Kaige 陳凱歌's Caught in the Web 搜索 (6 July), Gordon CHAN 陳嘉上's The Four 四大名捕 (12 July) and Patrick LEUNG 梁柏堅's Wu Dang 大武當之天地密碼 (17 July).
Forthcoming Chinese films were clearly visible on the red carpet with Greater China's biggest stars promoting films that will open in the next six months. They walked the red carpet with their director, producers and co-stars, with the busiest talent repeating their rounds to promote multiple films.
While some soon-to-open local films may still be in post-production, or awaiting censorship, their absence nevertheless downgrades the festival. Still, the event — and distributor Huayi Brothers Media Corporation 華誼兄弟傳媒股份有限公司 — should be commended for an opening night choice that gives the festival relevance.
Always: Sunset on Third Street 3
| ＡＬＷＡＹＳ 三丁目の夕日’６４
Well-mounted, rosy conclusion (?) to the period tale is as light as a feather.
Light romantic drama that's well packaged and played but lacks any special emotional oomph.
Caught in the Web
Chen Kaige's superbly crafted drama about internet and media abuse has a cast at the top of its game.
Standard, rather old-fashioned, martial arts mystery generates no real drama.
Key of Life
Clever black comedy about identity switching is well written and played, but a tad long.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection
Slick fantasy vehicle for three Mainland stars is in a different league to the 2008 film.
Light action-adventure works OK as family fare but not much more than that.
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