Top 10 Box Office Chinese Films of 2009

January 10, 2010

Top 10 Box Office Chinese Films of 2009

As Hollywood’s domestic box-office total topped US$10 billion in 2009, China’s domestic box office also hit all-time high in the same year. Chinese cinemas raked in 6.206 billion yuan (close to 1 billion U.S. dollars) in box-office revenue in 2009, according to the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), an increase of 43% compared to the 2008 figure. The number of feature films produced in 2009 reached 456. The total box office revenue of home-made feature films accounted for 56.6% of the yearly total.

"A Simple Noodle Story" (2009), Zhang Yimou's take on Coen Brothers' debut "Blood Simple" (1984)

As more urban Chinese are accustomed to going to the cinema, 90 new cinemas with more than 386 new screens were added in 2009. Mainland China now has 1,635 professional cinemas with 4,483 screens in total.

The following is the list of the Top 10 Box Office Chinese Films of 2009 (in Chinese yuan):

1.    The Foundering of a Republic (建国大业; d. Han Sanping & Huang Jianxin); domestic box office (dbo): 420 million yuan;
2.    Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城; d. Teddy Chen); dbo: 274 million yuan;
3.    Red Cliff II (赤壁2; d. John Woo); dbo: 260 million yuan;
4.    A Simple Noodle Story (三枪拍案惊奇; d. Zhang Yimou); dbo: 256 million yuan;
5.    The Message (风声; d. Chen Guofu & Gao Qunshu); dbo: 224 million yuan;
6.    City of Life & Death (南京南京! d. Lu Chuan); dbo: 168 million yuan;
7.    Look for a Star (游龙戏凤; d. Wai Leung Lau); dbo: 113 million yuan;
8.    Crazy Racer (疯狂的赛车; d. Ning Hao); dbo: 109 million yuan;
9.    On His Majesty’s Secret Service (大内密探零零狗; d. Wong Jing); dbo: 103 million yuan;
10.    Sophie’s Revenge (非常完美; d. Jin Yimeng); dbo: 96 million yuan.

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Review of Perpetual Motion (无穷动; China, 2005)

January 5, 2010

Review of Perpetual Motion (无穷动;China, 2005), A Beijing Happy Village production. (International sales: Beijing Happy Village)

Director: Ning Ying
Producers: Ning Ying
Executive Producer: Francesco Cosentino
Screenwriter: Ning Ying, Liu Sola, Hung Huang
Editor: Ning Ying
Music: Liu Sola
Cinematographer: Andrea Cavazzuti, Ning Ying (DV-to-35mm)
Art Director: Yang Xiaoping
Cast: Hung Huang, Liu Sola, Li Qinqin, Ping Yanni, Zhang Hanzhi
Running time: 85 MIN.
Release in China: 2005.

Shaoyi’s Rating: C (Below average)

Perpetual Motion (Wu qiong dong, 2005), d. Ning Ying

Trained at the Beijing Film Academy and the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, and later hired as an assistant director on Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), Ning Ying emerged in the early and mid-1990s as a promising Beijing-based independent director thanks to the much acclaimed works For Fun (1992) and On the Beat (1995). The well-controlled pace and subtle sarcasm, compounded by a conscious use of long tracking shots, helped define a distinctive female voice in contemporary Chinese cinema. This distinctiveness, however, is largely lost in Ning’s most recent production Perpetual Motion.

The film is shot almost entirely in the confinement of a typical Beijing siheyuan (walled courtyard house), where the main character Niu Niu (Hung Huang), a well-off magazine editor, lives. Middle aged and no longer confident about her look, Niu Niu gets up one morning to find her husband missing. She is suspicious of him having an affair with one of her close female friends. Determined to find out whom her husband is sleeping with, she invites all the “usual suspects,” three in total, to the New Year’s dinner she hosts at home. The guessing game starts with a comically rendered chicken-feet “feast,” followed by a tricky mah-jongg game, during which the loser is to make confessions about her love affairs. As the audience expects this scenario to continue after Qinqin makes her “confession,” however, the narrative suddenly takes a sharp turn to a dark attic where three women start to reminisce their youthful days during the Cultural Revolution. The film at this point begins to lose its focus, and the characters’ random reference to a changing China becomes more and more pointless. Their supposedly humorous dialogues never get crossed, sometimes even making them laughable. We are even not certain about whether we should take it seriously when Lala (composer Liu Sola) is said to be sent to a mental hospital. The film ends with a call from the police saying that Niu Niu’s husband died in a car crash with an 18-year-old girl sitting by his side.

Perpetual Motion is marketed as an “avant-garde” “feminist” film in China, and the director also seems to work toward that direction, but to this reviewer it is neither “avant-garde” nor “feminist,” only a reminder that an established filmmaker could still go wrong if he/she is not careful enough with decision-making. Technically, because it was first shot on DV and later transferred to 35mm, the film looks flat and shallow, lacking layered details. Sound is poorly done, and only Li Qinqin comes out as a convincing character. The long tracking shot of the three women walking on the street in the end, however, salvages the film from being a complete disaster.