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    Exclusive Interview: Mainstream Chinese Movies Gain Exposure in U.S.

    Opening at the UCLA Film & Television Archive in Los Angeles this week, Recent Popular Cinema of Mainland China introduces Angelenos to popcorn movies from the mainland. Jing Daily spoke recently with Shannon Kelley, Head of Public Programs at the Archive, about the series.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    Chinese Blockbusters To Be Screened At UCLA Film & Television Archive#

    Chinese art-house cinema has long been a staple of the international film festival and museum circuit. But the films that most Chinese moviegoers line up for don’t usually reach international audiences. Opening at the UCLA Film & Television Archive in Los Angeles this week,

    Recent Popular Cinema of Mainland China#

    introduces Angelenos to popcorn movies from the mainland.

    Jing Daily spoke recently with Shannon Kelley, Head of Public Programs at the Archive, about the series.

    Jing Daily (JD): How did the series come about? What was the thinking behind it?#

    Shannon Kelley (SK)#

    : We had an approach from some friends within the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which has been a frequent participant in our programming. They were working with an associated transnational corporation called Beauty Media, which is involved in DVD distribution and television interests in the United States, and they were interested in bringing attention to other Chinese cinemas, other than the art cinema. That struck me as interesting.

    The machinery of the Chinese film industry is very much on display in these films—the camerawork is often stunning, and right down the line, the writing and acting are quite impressive. On top of that, the genres are so plentiful, and in many ways so similar to those genres that have developed in America.

    JD: Tell us about the selection process.#

    SK#

    : The Film Bureau sent an initial selection of 25 films. I chose the seven in the series from that group. The thing I liked about these particular titles is how sensual they were, in terms of their technical achievement and the way that was wedded with storytelling. So that in the best sense of the word, all of the academic points were hit: a camera moves a certain way for a certain genre and another way for another, and color palettes were so specifically worked out. So a romantic drama had a very beautiful and deliberate look as compared with the look of, for instance, a crime thriller. And the rhythms were very specific, and so forth. It implicitly shows us an audience that’s very literate about these things. And they’re being well served by the films, in terms of the expertise of their craft and the sensuality of what’s being made.

    In some cases, there’s also a timeliness about these films. They engage important contemporary themes. There are at least two that engage the question of ecology. Super Typhoon directly addresses global warming with the idea that ecological catastrophe is brought about by global warming and that citizens have to do something about it. And then on a smaller scale, the opening film, Li Shuanguang, is about a man who retires after several years in a factory and spends a new period of his life cleaning up the harm that the factory has done, to create a beautiful garden.

    JD: Based on the films you’ve seen, how would you characterize mainstream Chinese cinema?

    SK#

    : It’s much easier to read than I thought it would be, and very fun. And responsive to popular taste in a way I hadn’t expected. Because I’d been cultivated on a different kind of Chinese cinema that’s slower, more allegorical, and that called on you to do a different type of work. That art cinema seems so much more specifically Chinese than what we’re showing here. The settings in these films may be places you haven’t seen before, but the attitudes and thematic situations are much more universal. And it’s nice to think that in film terms, the audience speaks the same kind of generic vernacular that a Western audience might. That our cinemas can speak to each other with a real immediacy.

    Another interesting aspect is that occasionally you see, popping into a film, a Hong Kong actor or a Hong Kong director now working in a mainland context. I don’t know how common this has been in the popular cinema, but it seems to point to some kind of cultural rapprochement between the sectors of the traditionally divided Chinese film culture—which you couldn’t even call one film culture for most of its existence. But I think it does account for some of the high action in some of these films, and the quality of humor. It’s something to keep watching.

    Recent Popular Cinema of Mainland China runs May 14-23 at the#

    UCLA Film & Television Archi#

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