6 Chinese-language films were picked on CNN’s shortlist for best Asian films, which had 18 films spanning across Asia and inexplicably across Asia to New Zealand and Iran. For Zhang Yimou they picked a representative in Hou Zhe, which is my favorite Asian film of all time, and one of my top 3 films of all time. It annoys me however, to think that they picked it for political reasons (see anti-cnn.com, and Jack Cafferty), since in their description they say it’s banned in China. Well, they are about a decade too late, since it has long since been unbanned in the mainland, even before Mr. Zhang began his major pimpage of Chinese culture starting with “Hero” and mostly recently, the operning ceremony of the Olympics.
Another mainland Chinese film picked, Shower, also has a connection to the Olympics, the Paralympics that is. Shower’s lead, veteran actor Pu Cunxi, has been a long-time humanitarian in China, and advocate for the disabled and has been a volunteer in the 2008 Paralympics. A list of the other Chinese films picked, and their biased CNN summaries is behind the cut.
‘In the Mood for Love’ (‘Fa yeung nin wa’) Hong Kong/China
(Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Wong was heavily influenced by Hitchcock’s psychological thriller “Vertigo” during the making of this poetic, exquisitely shot meditation on love and loss starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.
‘Still Life’ (‘Sanxia haoren’) China
(Zhang Ke Jia, 2006)
Awarded a Golden Lion at Venice in 2006, this wide-sweeping film is based on the human tragedy of the Three Gorges Dam (more than one million people have been displaced) which stretches across the Yangtze River. The story focuses on a miner who travels back to his home town looking for his wife only to find that his former home is now submerged. The film illustrates the gulf between China’s new world order and the soon-to-be-forgotten culture of the past.
‘Shower’ (‘Xizao’) China
(Yang Zhang, 1999)
The richly humorous and touching story of Shenzhen businessman, Da Ming who returns home to Beijing where his father runs the local bathhouse, only to be caught between two cultures — the decaying district of his childhood and the booming South where he now lives with a wife who has never met his family. When he realizes his father’s health is failing, he must take stock.
‘Infernal Affairs’ (‘Mou gaan dou’) Hong Kong/China
(Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Alan Mak Siu-Fai, 2002)
Hong Kong cop thriller following the parallel lives of an undercover officer who infiltrates a Triad gang and policeman who secretly reports to a ruthless gang boss. “Infernal Affairs” breaks the mould of much of contemporary Hong Kong cinema by steering clear of over-the-top-action in favor of a slow-burning build up of psychological tension. Engrossing.
‘To Live’ (‘Huozhe’) China
(Zhang Yimou, 1994)
Much lauded but banned in Mainland China because of its satirical portrayal of the Communist government, this epic, sumptuous film traces the personal fortunes of Fugui and Jiazhen as they fall from wealthy landownership to peasantry over 30 turbulent years.
‘A Touch of Zen’ (‘Xia nu’) Hong Kong/Taiwan
(King Hu, 1969)
In this spiritual kung fu movie, a young artist finds himself caught up in the struggle to help a beautiful young woman escape the Imperial agents who murdered her family. A classic of the martial arts fantasy genre, it was the first Chinese film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also a massive influence on Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”