Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Chinese Films Amongst the Decade's 100 Best

As we draw closer to the end of the Noughties, London broadsheet The Times has selected its 100 Best Films of the Decade. As you might expect from the British media, it's very anglocentric and a little eccentric with its odd mix of arthouse and megaplex crowdpleasers.

Although this past decade has hardly been a glory era for Chinese film-making, that only three Chinese films made the list seems an underrepresentation. Perhaps that's more the fault of today's film distribution system rather than The Times critics. It's strange that as the economy becomes increasingly globalised, and a greater range of products from all over the world are available to consumers, the choices of filmgoers in the English-speaking world are steadily being reduced to a bland menu of mainly American fare. In Australia, for example, this year only one Chinese film received a general cinema release, and that was a condensed version of the two Red Cliff movies.

Back to The Times list, and the highest-ranked Chinese film was arthouse favourite In the Mood for Love (花样年华) at number 37. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai (王家卫), the romantic, atmospheric and very stylish love story starred Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as two neighbours trying to resist their growing love for each other. The Hong Kong produced film was released in 2000.

The second Chinese film on the list was at number 82, Yi Yi: A One and a Two (一一) directed by the late Edward Yang (杨德昌). Set in Taipei, this family drama was completed in 2000, just before Yang was diagnosed with cancer. The film won Yang the Best Director Award at Cannes, amongst numerous other awards.

Finally, at number 93 is The House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏) from 2004, which for some reason The Times found a better film than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Presumably the list-makers felt they needed to include at least one Zhang Yimou (张艺谋) film on the list. The martial arts epic, set towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, starred Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Ziyi and Andy Lau.

Incidentally the number one film on The Times list was a French movie, Hidden, which I haven't had the pleasure of seeing. Of course these lists are highly subjective and therefore shouldn't be taken too seriously. After all, what credibility does a list have that puts The Wedding Crashers and Anchorman ahead of Infernal Affairs, which failed to make the list at all?

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