Chinese Films

About Chinese Films

Chinese filmsThe Chinese-language cinema has three distinct historical threads: Cinema of Hong Kong, Cinema of China, and Cinema of Taiwan. After 1949 and until recent times, the cinema of mainland China operated under restrictions imposed by the Communist Party of China. Some films with political overtones are still censored or banned in China itself. However, most of these films are allowed to be shown abroad in commercially distributed theaters or in film festivals.

The vast majority of the Mainland-produced movies are Mandarin-based, unlike those from contemporary Hong Kong, which are almost exclusively made in Cantonese. Mainland films are often dubbed when exported to Hong Kong for theatrical runs, though Taiwan, like the PRC is predominantly Mandarin-speaking, and offers ready alternative commercial outlets for export.

History of Chinese films

Motion pictures were introduced to China in 1896. The first recorded screening of a motion picture in China occurred in Shanghai on August 11, 1896, as an "act" on a variety bill. The first Chinese film, a recording of the Beijing Opera, The Battle of Dingjunshan, was made in November 1905.[1] For the next decade the production companies were mainly foreign-owned, and the domestic film industry did not start in earnest until 1916, centering around Shanghai, a thriving entrepot center and the largest city in the Far East.

During the 1920s film technicians from the United States trained Chinese technicians in Shanghai, and American influence continued to be felt there for the next two decades. It was during this period that some of the more important production companies first came into being, notably Mingxing Film Company ("Bright Star" Pictures) and the Shaw Brothers' Tianyi Film Company ("Unique"). Mingxing, founded by Zheng Zhengqiu and Zhang Shichuan initially focused on comic shorts, including the oldest surviving Chinese film, Laborer's Love (1922).[2][3] This soon shifted, however, to feature length films and family dramas including Orphan Rescues Grandfather (1923).[2] Meanwhile, Tianyi shifted their model towards folklore dramas, and also pushed into foreign markets; their film White Snake (1926) proved a typical example of their success in the Chinese communities of Southeast Asia.

Chinese Modern Cinema

Chinese films have enjoyed box office success abroad. Films such as Farewell My Concubine, 2046, Hero, Suzhou River, The Road Home and House of Flying Daggers have been critically acclaimed around the world. The Hengdian World Studios can be seen as the "Chinese Hollywood", with a total area of up to 330 ha. and 13 shooting bases, including a 1:1 copy of the Forbidden City. In 2000, the multi-national production Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon achieved massive success at the Western box office despite being dismissed by some Chinese cinema-goers for pandering to Western tastes. Nevertheless, it provided an introduction to Chinese cinema (and especially the Wuxia genre) for many and increased the popularity of many Chinese films which may have otherwise been relatively unknown to Westerners. In 2002, Hero was made as a second attempt to produce a Chinese film with the international appeal of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The cast and crew featured many of the most famous Chinese actors who were also known to some extent in the West, including Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

It was directed by Zhang Yimou. The film was a phenomenal success in most of Asia and topped the U.S. box office for two weeks, making enough in the U.S. alone to cover the production costs. The successes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero blur what may be called the boundary between Mainland Chinese cinema and a more international-based "Chinese-language cinema". Crouching Tiger, for example, was directed by a Taiwanese director (Ang Lee), but its leads include Mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwan actors and actresses while the film was co-produced by an array of Chinese, American, Hong Kong, Taiwanese film companies.

This merging of people, resources, and expertise from three regions (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) seemed to imply big-budgeted Chinese-language cinema is moving toward a more international-based arena looking to compete with the best Hollywood films. Further examples of films in this mould would include House of Flying Daggers (2004), The Promise (2005) and The Banquet (2006). Tighter-financed Chinese-language cinema are still relatively localized in content, as seen in those from Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, especially in the latter two regions where many films are still unable to find international distributors abroad.