The year is almost a quarter over (I know!), but 2014 is a really exciting year for Chinese film and it would be a waste not to take a look at all the great stuff that’s going to be released soon. This year, as some have noted, will be the year of big director comebacks, from Red Cliff’s John Woo to Zhang Yimou and many others. (Thanks to Mookie for everything about this post, I’m just here to spread the word.)
(Also, you’ll soon realize that Huang Xiao Ming does not rest… I believe he has at least 4 films this year alone, excluding dramas!!)
This list is in no way exhaustive.
Black Coal, Thin Ice 白日焰火 – Diao Yinan 刁亦南
Release: Mar 21st
Cast: Liao Fan, Gwei Lun Mei, Wang Xue Bing
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Black Coal, Thin Ice is Diao’s third feature film. Gwei is Wu Zhi Zhen, a mysterious lady whose boyfriend was murdered and butchered into pieces five years ago. Liao, who also won Silver Bear for Best Actor, is Zhang Zi Li, the detective who found and shot the murderer. However, a recent series of killings eerily recall the same murder five years ago, and Zhang is determined to get to the bottom of it. Even more strangely, though, is that all the victims had once been Wu’s ex-boyfriends. Zhang decides to get close to Wu, only to find himself falling for her…
The Crossing 太平轮 – John Woo 吴宇森
Release: Oct (TBA)
The film chronicles three couples as they cross the Atlantic as they flee from China to Taiwan during the revolution of 1949. Needless to say, it promises to be an epic in all sense of the word.
Return 归来 – Zhang Yimou 张艺谋
Release: May 27th
Cast: Chen Dao Ming, Gong Li
Based on famed Chinese write Yan Ge Ling’s novel “The Criminal Lu Yan Shi 陆犯焉识”, which tells the story of Lu Yan Shi (Chen), an intellectual during the Communist revolution condemned to a life in service in the deserted regions of Western China. His wife of an arranged marriage, Feng Wan Yu (Gong), waits for him for twenty years, despite their loveless marriage. When Lu once again returns, his wife is already on her death bed, too sick to recognize him. Decades of toil and loyalty finally changes his heart, and the husband and wife embark on a new life together in the final years of their lives.
After Flowers of War (2011), which was also based on a Yan Ge Ling novel, this is reportedly Zhang’s return to art-house film, harking back to the days of Raise the Red Lantern and Red Sorghum, which were both with Gong Li.
Gone With the Bullets 一步之遥 – Jiang Wen 姜文
Release: Dec 18th
Let the Bullets Fly, Jiang’s previous directorial effort was a phenomenal critical and box office success in 2012. Gone With The Bullets is the highly anticipated sequel of the bullets trilogy, though the plot will not be closely related to its predecessor. Still set in the 20th Century, the film revolves around Ma Zouri (Jiang) and Xiang Feitian (Ge) who start a beauty pageant competition, targeting the rich and wealthy. Things spiral out of control when an unexpected nobody wins the competition.
Tracks in Snowy Forest 林海雪原／智取威虎山 – Tsui Hark 徐克
Release: Dec (TBA)
Cast: Zhang Han Yu, Lin Geng Xin, Tong Li Ya, Liang Jia Hui
Adapted from Qu Bo’s book of the same title, a classic from the revolution era, the story tells of a small platoon of soldiers tasked with exterminating bandits in the northeast. The hero is leader Yang Zi Rong, and the events happen in the aftermath of World War Two during the winter of 1946. Producers have promised a 3D epic feast, “a martial arts movie with guns”.
Wolf Totem 狼图腾 – Jean-Jacques Annaud
Release: Dec (TBA)
Cast: Feng Shao Feng, Dou Xiao (Shawn Dou)
Wolf Totem, a book of the same title by Jiang Rong, was a phenomenal best seller when it was first published about 10 years ago. Semi-autobiographical in nature, the author writes of his personal encounters and observations of the wolf populations that inhabit the mongolian plains, where he spent more than 10 years doing research. Through detailed, vivid descriptions of wolf behavior, Jiang questioned the meaning of intelligence, life and relationships.
The Assassin 聂隐娘 – Hou Hsiao Hsien 侯孝贤
Cast: Shu Qi
Wonderful Taiwanese director Hou returns with The Assassin, a film about the titular female assassin played by Shu Qi. Hou, who is known for his comedies, is new to the action and martial arts genre. Also an adapted screenplay, the film takes from a Tang Dynasty short story of the same title, which recounts the story of a young girl who was kidnapped and transformed into a world-class assassin. Once, when on a mission to kill Liu Chang Yi, she is so taken by his class and demeanor that she decides to offer her loyalty to him.
Release: Dec (TBA)
Cast: Tang Wei, Feng Shao Feng, Wang Zhi Wen, Zhu Ya Wen
Golden Era is a biopic about one of China’s most precious 20th century female writers, Xiao Hong (Tang). In the 1930s, Xiao never stayed long in one place, travelling from Haarbin up north to Chong QIng to Wuhan, down to Hong Kong. During this time, she developed relationships with four men, including Xiao Jun, the father of her child, and Duan Mu Hong Liang, the man who would become her husband.
Director Ann is most known for A Simple Life (2011) with Andy Lau.
Wu Wen Xi Dong 无问西东 – 李芳芳 Li Fang Fang
Release: Apr (TBA)
A film made in celebration of Tsinghua University’s 100th Anniversary, it’s title is taken from Tsinghua’s school motto “立德立言、无问西东” (meaning that to have the best morals and to speak only beneficial words are the foundations of youth, pardon my crude translations).
The film chronicles five young people on a journey, all struggling on their path to finding their place in the world. Wu Ling Lan (Chen) is the one who is most excited at the beginning of the trip, but who soon loses his way. Shen Guang Yao (Wang) is the one who carries with him the cumbersome weight of others’ expectations. Wang Min Jia (Zhang) is the one who hidden beneath the darkest shadow cast by the brightest sun, will she ever be able to emerge from the shadows? Chen Peng (Huang) is one who trips because of love. Lastly, Zhang Guo Guo (Chang Zhen) is the one with the poker face on the outside, while battling an internal war within.
Tale of Three Cities 三城记 – Zhang Wan Ting, Luo Qi Rui 张婉婷 / 罗启锐
This is a story of Jackie Chan’s parents and their undying love during the years of war in the 1930s. The film is based on a documentary made by the directors made previously about the history of Jackie Chan’s family. Chan’s father, Chen Zhi Ping, originally named Fang Dao Long, was born in 1914 in Anhui province, and grew up in the city of Nanjing. During WW2, he was captured by the Japanese. He once served in the Republic of China’s army, which was when he had to change his name. Fang was later removed of his position after an accident. He became a textile merchant in Nanjing, before moving to Taiwan after the war. After the end of the civil war in 1949, Fang once worked as a chef for the American Embassy in Hong Kong. He had two kids with his first wife, but she didn’t go to Hong Kong with him. His second wife, Chen Li Li, gave birth to Jackie Chan in 1954.
A Woman Who Knows How To Flirt is the Luckiest 撒娇女人最好命 – Peng Hao Xiang 彭浩翔
Release: Dec (TBA)
Enough of my rambling, have a video of Huang Xiao Ming and Zhou Xun being cute on set. I’ve been looking forward to this film ever since I first saw this clip! Besides, who needs a reason other than it’s Zhou Xun’s comeback?
Basically it is Huang Xiao Ming’s birthday and they celebrate it with a big bikini-top birthday cake! Huang later says that actually it’s not the girl who’s the best at flirting in the movie, it’s the guy (shhh).
The Breakup Guru 分手大师 – Deng Chao
Release: June 27th
One is a bum, one gets by selling self-help DVDs: Mei Yuan Gui (Deng Chao) is a guy who survives by leeching off his girlfriends; Ye Xiao Chun is a girl who sells DVDs for a living. Two people in the bottom rungs of society meet by accident one day when the guy saves the girl, and so begins the most hilarious, silly and touching love story.
Massage 推拿 – Lou Ye 娄烨
Cast: Guo Xiao Dong, Qin Hao, Huang Xuan
Massage, another Chinese film that won at the Berlin Film Festival (Silver Bear for Cinematography), tells the story of a community of blind masseurs. It is acted mostly by blind individuals, and is based on an widely acclaimed novel by Bi Feiyu. There has also been a drama adaptation made in 2013.
Taoist Mountain – Chen Kai Ge 陈凯歌
Release: Dec (TBA)
Cast: Wang Bao Qiang, Yuan Hua Fang Zu Ming, Vanness Wu
Deemed a martial arts classic, the original by Xu Hao Feng chronicles a period of chaos during the early 20th century. A Taoist monk, sick of the solitude in the mountains, decides to sneak out and experiences a series of magical events on his journey. He is unintentionally swept into a internal succession battle within the Taiji martial arts clan, and is pitted against a Japanese ninja. Later on, a Chinese secret agent seeks to recruit him as a spy, an opportunity which he exploits to help a Chinese Opera performer kill the secret agent to get revenge.