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Chinese films shine once more at Cannes

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-15 09:27

A poster for the film  Caught by the Tides. [Photo/mtime.com]

The 77th Cannes Film Festival kicked off in the resort city in southeastern France on Tuesday, marking an inspirational return of Chinese language movies to the international screen.

Widely regarded as an important platform that has helped Chinese filmmakers earn global recognition for more than four decades, alongside the Venice International Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, the annual Cannes event has selected multiple high-profile Chinese movies in its official categories.

Director Jia Zhangke, a leading figure among China's sixth generation of filmmakers, saw his latest directorial effort, Caught by the Tides, shortlisted for the prestigious Palme d'Or, marking his sixth nomination for the festival's top honor.

The film, which will make its global debut at the festival on Saturday, spans 22 years both on reel and in real life. Shooting started in 2001 and production was completed in 2023.

Caught by the Tides stars Zhao Tao, Jia's wife, who has appeared in 13 of his films over 25 years. The film's plot revolves around the intermittent relationship between a woman and her lover in a small town in northern China, and delves into the protagonist's journey through life's tumultuous experiences.

Jia revealed on his Sina Weibo account that the film's lead actor, Li Zhubin, is a long-time collaborator who has appeared in some of his art-house works, including A Touch of Sin, which earned the director the Best Screenplay award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Caught by the Tides is also significant because it is Jia's first film at Cannes in six years, which he said evokes a sense of nostalgia for "finally making my return to the cinema world".

Reflecting on the dearth of Chinese films at Cannes in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jia said this year showcases the commitment of Chinese filmmakers to continue creating and sharing their art.

As one of the most star-studded Chinese films participating in the festival, Hong Kong director Peter Chan's work She's Got No Name will debut at Cannes on the penultimate day on May 24.

The film is inspired by a 1945 incident in Shanghai, where a woman allegedly murdered her husband over domestic violence.

She's Got No Name has A-list actress Zhang Ziyi playing the lead role, while members of the cast also include some of China's most sought-after stars such as Yi Yangqianxi, Zhao Liying, Yang Mi and Lei Jiayin.

In an earlier interview with Chinese journalists, Chan revealed that he was drawn to the project around eight years ago when a scriptwriter friend presented him with a novel inspired by the Shanghai case.

"Over the past eight years, I have evolved from a mere passerby intrigued by this tale and hopeful to see it showcased on screen, to a director keen on finding something that has been relatable to me," Chan said during the interview.

"I have questions about the case and aimed to incorporate all these uncertainties into the movie. It's a dramatic case filled with suspense involving many characters, whose fates are altered by the era," he added.

Among other Chinese films in the Cannes official lineup is director Guan Hu's Black Dog in the Un Certain Regard section, a category designed to recognize young, innovative filmmakers and their unique storytelling styles.

The film, starring actor Eddie Peng, recounts a dogcatcher's transformative journey after his encounter with a black stray dog.

Hong Kong director Pou-Soi Cheang's action blockbuster Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In, which has grossed 480 million yuan ($66 million) since its domestic release on May 1, is set to have its international premiere in the festival's Midnight Screenings section.

Sha Dan, a veteran movie critic and film exhibition curator at the China Film Archive, said that this year marks a pivotal chapter for Chinese cinema to shine once again at Cannes.

"Most of the nominated films are highly anticipated by domestic movie fans. Furthermore, several classic Chinese films will screen their 4K restored versions in Cannes, serving as a bridge to enhance cultural exchanges and bolster the influence of Chinese films," he said.

The list of restored films includes maverick Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's 1984 comedy Shanghai Blues and action superstar Jackie Chan's 1991 movie Armour of God II: Operation Condor, Sha added.

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