A Filmmaker Walks a Line

The New York Times profiles Zhang Yimou, whose recent work, including the just-released Flowers of War, has earned him criticism for sticking too close to the party line:

In the first part of his career, Mr. Zhang made beautiful art films set in rural China that were banned by censors here. In the second part, he made beautiful historical epics that alienated many of his early supporters, who say Mr. Zhang’s narratives now toe the party line.

THEN there was his stint designing the cast-of-thousands opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was a moment of pride for many Chinese and for Mr. Zhang, though some critics said he had become China’s Leni Reifenstahl.

But Mr. Xi’s criticism of Mr. Zhang in 2007 shows that Mr. Zhang does not necessarily command respect from Chinese leaders. And Mr. Zhang said he did not see himself as a voice of the government.

Indeed, Mr. Zhang criticized the capricious system by which a film is selected to be the country’s Oscar entry. That choice is left up to the powerful agency regulating the film industry. “It should really be the job of a committee of experts in the film industry, so that the film that is artistically the best will be recommended,” Mr. Zhang said.

As for censorship, Mr. Zhang said the script and final cut of “The Flowers of War” had to be approved by officials, as does any domestic film for which theatrical distribution is sought here.

Read reviews of Flowers of War, and more about Zhang Yimou, via CDT, including:

- Zhang Yimou’s Qin Shi Huangdi Complex – Cui Weiping
- Zhang Yimou and State Aesthetics
- “The Way Art Works”: An Interview With Zhang Yimou (1)
- Hero: A distortion of history?

January 7, 2012 11:19 PM
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