May 26, 2004

Director Zhang Takes The Stage

Zhang Yimou at Asia SocietyLast night Cinecultist raced out of the Day Job and uptown for Asian Cinevision and the Asia Society's A Conversation with Chinese director Zhang Yimou. A part of the "Fifth Generation" of filmmakers from China, Zhang is one of the foremost members of the group which brought international prominence to their national cinema in the late '80s. One of his new movies, Hero is finally getting American theatrical release by Miramax in August and his most recent production, House of a Thousand Daggers just screened at this year's Cannes. CC researched and wrote an extensive paper on Zhang and his collaboration with actress Gong Li for a grad school class, so we were particularly excited when our friend William put us on the list for the event.

CC knows William from NYU but now he's working for Cinevision, a non profit Asian cultural organization which puts on the International Asian American Film Festival every year in July. He acted last night as the translator for director Zhang in his conversation with MoMA video currator Barbara London, though when we call it a conversation we're using the word loosely. The evening consisted of out of left field questions from Ms. London (samples: What is the Fifth Generation? What do you think of the three questions in Turnadot? Why did you set Hero in the Ching dynasty?), extensive answers from Mr. Zhang in Mandarin on what felt like responding where most of the audience around us followed along, William scratching down notes, and then what could only be described as a paraphrasing of his answers by William. CC thinks William rocks, as a film scholar and a friend, and he's exposed us to a number of amazing films we wouldn't have ever seen on our own, but as a translator he sort of missed the point. Interesting but frusterating at the same time.

During the Q & A, one audience member did ask what CC had wanted to know, was Zhang upset by the way Miramax held off on releasing Hero for over a year and is now touting it as a Quentin Tarantino produced product? However, the diplomatic director deflected the question saying it was up to Miramax to destribute the picture as they saw fit and that he personally likes Tarantino very much having interacted with him when he was in China shooting Kill Bill. This soft peddling makes sense since Miramax did co-sponsor the event last night with the Asia Society and Cinevision, but it still burns CC up that Harvey has his meddling fingers in every cinematic pie we seem to be interested in these days.

For even more information about Zhang Yimou than you knew you needed, read Senses of Cinema's Great Directors entry on him. Comprehensive, thy name is Senses of Cinema. Also, check out the Tarantino hyping-Hero trailer, the only star in this picture must be Jet Li, here.

Posted by karen at May 26, 2004 8:04 AM