Even if you don’t automatically recognize Yimou Zhang’s name, you’ve seen his work. In fact, the man has the distinction of the being the director of the most-watched television event of all time – the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Some would call him an arthouse director, although most in the United States know him as the mind behind Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers, and a little film called Hero.

His newest movie – a slapstick reimagining of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. - was released in China last month and took in a healthy $15 million in its first weekend. Now, in an interview done with NPR, the director is answering some tough questions. Specifically:

  1. Why he decided to make A Simple Noodle Story as a comedic remake of a noir neo-classic.
  2. Why he decided to move from the art house into the big commercial house.

The first answer is to challenge himself. The second answer is to challenge China.

The money quote here:

Young people are the key. If they lose their interest in domestic movies, we will be in big trouble. Then China’s film market will be occupied by foreigners. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea are examples of this. The mainland is our last battleground. So in this case, it’s not shameful to shoot commercial or funny movies.”

In Zhang’s mind, there is a distinct fight between the influx of American movies and the homegrown stuff right there in China. He doesn’t want to lose out to foreign blockbusters when China has so much to offer its own citizens artistically and commercially. For that, he’s willing to make more commercially viable films.

Which brings up an interesting question for American filmmakers in similar positions. Isn’t alright for directors of all artistic styles to branch out into more commercial fare considering that more and more foreign films are invading our shores? I don’t ask this to create some sort of ghost argument about keeping out other filmic influences (I love the fact that we get to see more foreign films), but I think the question is one that almost every other industry (from automobiles to electronics) has had to answer for.

So with the changing world economy, and with China emerging as a more major player, filmmakers may have to change their game up a bit – focusing more on domestic box office than numbers abroad while still increasing the availability of theatrical releases and Blu-rays to the States.

Because, who the hell doesn’t want to see a Chinese comedic remake of the Coen Brothers’ first dark, murderous film?


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