When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Who Is To Blame For China's Awful Movies?

How can a film be rubbish but also be a blockbuster?
How can a film be rubbish but also be a blockbuster?
Tao Shun


BEIJING — Many Chinese films are awful. Who is to blame for this objective fact? An audience typically praises a film when they think it's good and complain when it isn't. Yet Feng Xiaogang, a famous Chinese film director, was lambasted at the recent Shanghai Films Festival for the following statement: "The reason why many Chinese films are rubbish is because many Chinese spectators are rubbish. No decent spectators, no decent films. A lot of trash films actually attract plenty of viewers."

But Feng doesn't face up to a fundamental question that rises from that assertion: How on Earth can a film be rubbish but also be a blockbuster? Whether a film sells well depends on its publicity and word of mouth but also whether it's scheduled to be released at the same time as the launch of other top competing films. Feng obviously doesn't understand this point and instead blames the audience.

Feng once said, "I make films to please myself, so I am happy." It is as if he believes that pleasing viewers makes his film bad whereas when a film pleases him, it's good. What Feng forgets is that people have to pay to see a film. A director who cares only about pleasing himself and not the audience can't be a good director.

I am not trying to defend poorly-made movies. As a matter of fact, I am also sick and tired of China's countless bad films, among which I count some of Feng's. He has made some good films but his recent work is hardless flawless. An artist's golden age for creation often lasts only a few years. But even just one or two unforgettable masterpieces would be a considerable achievement for a director. However, this doesn't mean that the public has to swallow whatever nonsense he spouts.

Sour grapes are understandable.

The box office rankings allow the public to vote with its wallet. Even though it is not the only criteria for rating a movie, ticket receipts remain an important one. It's understandable that a film director with low box office numbers may have sour grapes toward those with higher numbers. But directors should keep striving to attract as many spectators as possible.

Inside a movie theater in Hong Kong — Photo: Eric Chan

Last year, Fang Li, producer of the art film Song of the Phoenix, literally begged distributors to schedule his film at better hours and keep its theater run for additional weeks. Douban, China's most influential social networking media for movies, gave it a very good rating. In the end, this fine-art film, which is directed by Wu Tianming, who died of a heart attack just before the movie's release, succeeded in attracting a much larger audience.

In my view, there's no such thing as a rubbish audience, only rubbish filmmakers. People such as Ang Lee, the Taiwan-born international director may not always be thinking about box office numbers. The sales performance of his films varies. Still, Lee has a modest attitude toward the art of creation, the market and the audience. He does not blame, like many Chinese filmmakers, anyone but himself. He does not point fingers at the film distribution system or the public's ignorance.

"Even the smartest people can't predict precisely how a film's box office will turn out," he once said. And Lee has some advice for directors in China: "Don't pursue quick success. There are a lot of temptations in this colorful world, yet not everything is going to be within reach. Medicine is so advanced today that we get to live a long life. Why hurry?"

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What To Do With The Complainers In Your Life — Advice From A South American Shrink

Argentines love to complain. But when you listen to others who complain, there are options: must we be a sponge to this daily toxicity or should we, politely, block out this act of emotional vandalism?

Photo of two men talking while sitting at a table at a bar un Buenos Aires, with a poster of Maradona on the wall behind them.

Talking in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Martín Reynoso*

BUENOS AIRESArgentina: the land of complainers. Whether sitting in a taxi, entering a shop or attending a family dinner, you won't escape the litany of whingeing over what's wrong with the country, what's not working and above all, what we need!

We're in an uneasy period of political change and economic adjustments, and our anxious hopes for new and better leaders are a perfect context for this venting, purging exercise.

Certain people have a strangely stable, continuous pattern of complaining: like a lifestyle choice. Others do it in particular situations or contexts. But what if we are at the receiving end? I am surprised at how complaints, even as they begin to be uttered and before they are fully formulated, can disarm and turn us into weak-willed accomplices. Do we have an intrinsic need to empathize, or do we agree because we too are dissatisfied with life?

Certainly, agreeing with a moaner may strengthen our social or human bonds, especially if we happen to share ideas or political views. We feel part of something bigger. Often it must seem easier to confront reality, which can be daunting, with this type of "class action" than face it alone.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest