Trend Two: Laugh at All Costs
While the “main melody” film highlights the fact that it is still too early to speak about a government/Party-free film industry and an open/free film market in China, Chinese commercial cinema has increasingly relied on comedy to recoup its investment. Partly due to the shift of popular taste and partly due to the restriction on the serious exploration of contemporary social and political issues, comedy becomes the dominant genre in Chinese commercial cinema. From Feng Xiaogang’s If You Are the One (2008) to Ning Hao’s “crazy series” (Crazy Stone, 2006; Crazy Racer, 2009) and Jin Yimeng’s directorial debut Sophie’s Revenge (2009, starring Zhang Ziyi), Chinese screens in recent years have seen the surge of pretentious slickers, clumsy good fellows, street-smart crooks, and narcissistic beauties. Even Zhang Yimou, whose seriousness and social critique are evidenced in such works as Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, and Hero, ventured into the comedy genre and made his Coen Brothers-inspired parody A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop (2009). Despite being condemned by many as a commercial sellout, Zhang’s A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop performed quite well at the box-office, raking in more than 256 million yuan, far exceeding its production figure.