Asian directors go West at Cannes

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - If the film fare at Cannes is anything to go by, Asian directors are reaching out beyond cultural borders, roping in Hollywood stars for universal tales set in fresh, inspiring locations.

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - If the film fare at Cannes is anything to go by, Asian directors are reaching out beyond cultural borders, roping in Hollywood stars for universal tales set in fresh, inspiring locations.  

And Western film-makers are returning the compliment, moving the action to Asia and bringing regional actors on board.

A flurry of films premiering at the Cannes filmfest underscores a new restlessness among the Asian industry's top talent, driven by a desire to paint on bigger canvases and reach broader audiences.

First off at the festival that ends next weekend was "My Blueberry Nights," Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's bittersweet ode to the American road movie, starring Jude Law and singer Norah Jones.

In the picture, Wong revives some of the slow-burn erotic longing from his 2000 international hit "In the Mood For Love."

But this time the budding romance is set in New York, shot in Wong's signature rich colours and mood lighting that render the city all but unrecognisable in its dreamlike beauty.

As Jones' character Elizabeth ventures west, Wong is clearly taken with the big skies and sprawling plains that mark a dramatic departure from the cramped high-rises of Hong Kong.

Wong said he had to seek help from his cast and crew to avoid presenting a distorted view of US culture -- something he said many Western directors failed to do when making pictures about Asia.

"I always wanted to make a film in a different language but I did want to avoid these problems," he said.

"A kiss means something different in Chinese or to Chinese characters (than) to Western characters. There's a subtle undertone which I have to make sure (to capture) because I want to do justice to Americans, to the characters, which I expect from other films about Chinese."

Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao Hsien, whose 2005 "Three Times" was selected to compete for the top prize, this year features in the Un Certain Regard sidebar with "Flight of the Red Balloon," starring French actress Juliette Binoche.

Based loosely on the 1956 children's classic "The Red Balloon," the new picture features Binoche as a Parisian puppeteer and single mother who seeks help in caring for her small son from a Taiwanese film student.

So East and West intersect in the French capital, shot with an awe for the city's beauty as only an outsider can possess. Hou said he had worked hard to present a vision of Paris that would ring true even to natives.

"I tried to spend as much time as possible exploring Paris. I watched how people in the neighbourhood I chose lived, their corner cafes," he told AFP.

"I gradually became accustomed to the regulars of those cafes until I felt I understood the rhythm of that part of Paris."

Cannes' sprawling market section too is promising more East-West films to come, including "I Come With The Rain," directed by Vietnam's Tran Anh Hung ("The Scent of Green Papaya") and starring Josh Hartnett of "The Black Dahlia."

In the movie, still in pre-production and to be shot in Hong Kong from June, Hartnett plays a private detective who heads for Asia in search of the vanished son of a Chinese billionaire.

Westerners, such as French film-maker Olivier Assayas, are stretching out this year too, sending characters to Asia for fish-out-of-water plot twists depicting an ever smaller globalised world.

Assayas' "Boarding Gate" stars Michael Madsen of "Kill Bill," Asia Argento ("Marie Antoinette") and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon -- using the Cantonese she picked up when she lived in Hong Kong as a teenager -- alongside Asian-born actors Kelly Lin and Carl Ng.

Assayas said moving his story mid-film from an anonymous Western city to Hong Kong had opened up the picture to new stories, new characters and a broader range of actors.

"I have never thought that there was a separate strain of Asian cinema but rather that Eastern and Western cinema have, at least during this last decade, been in this process of cross-pollination," said Assayas, who was once married to Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung.

"It has been one of the exciting events within contemporary cinema and I have always felt part of it."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Cannes Film Festival

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