Wachowski laments China's 'Cloud Atlas' cut

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 22, 2013
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Lana Wachowski speaks at the premiere of the new sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas," along with Chinese actress Zhou Xun and her brother Andy Wachowski in Beijing, Jan. 21, 2013. [China.org.cn]

A director expressed her disappointment that Chinese people could not watch the full version of new sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas" due to censorship at the film’s Chinese premiere yesterday.

"It sucks really," director Lana Wachowski told China.org.cn, "But I believe you can watch the full version online."

A publicist for Dreams of the Dragon Pictures Co., Ltd., a Chinese investor and the film's distributor for the overall Chinese region, said later that several explicit scenes containing sex and violence have been cut. But it is horrifying to learn that, according to several reports, nearly 40 minutes of content were left out of the final Chinese version.

Though "Cloud Atlas" directors said they believed Chinese editors, they didn't do the cut themselves. Qiu Huashun, boss of the Dreams of the Dragon Pictures, said the cut is due to Chinese censorship regulations and the interests of Chinese market.

When we go back to Wachowski's response to the cut, it also points out another huge problem for the film, namely that of movie pirates. The full pirate version has already been released online and been downloaded millions of times well before the film's Chinese debut.

"In the case of such visual effect blockbusters like 'Cloud Atlas,' audiences know they have to come to cinemas to fully enjoy them," Qiu lamented, "But pirating still remains a big problem. We invested so much money, there are so many artists involved and we spent so much energy to create it. All has been stolen. The fact that 'Cloud Atlas' cannot be screened at the same time as in other places in the world, has so many complicated reasons. But if we are going to do another movie like this, we must screen it in China at the same time as in other nations."

Dreams of Dragon Pictures has invested more than US$10 million in the movie, accounting for the biggest investment ever poured into a foreign project by a Chinese film company. The film's budget eventually reached a massive US$102 million, making "Cloud Atlas" one of the most expensive independent films of all time.

The film's producers even explained that the way they financed the film project -- by collecting money for a Hollywood-level production from both European and Asian investors -- was with the intention of creating a model that could rival the Hollywood giants. That's actually part of reason why the movie didn't do well on the North American market, Qiu said.

Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, directors of "Cloud Atlas," are currently in Beijing to attend the Chinese premiere and take their last chance with the mixed-reviewed and commercially flopped film. They hope the karma, fate, love, nirvana and metempsychosis interpreted in the film will resonate better with Chinese audiences.

Zhou Xun in a new poster of "Cloud Atlas" [China.org.cn]

"Cloud Atlas" is based on the 2004 novel of the same title by David Mitchell. It consists of six nested stories from the remote South Pacific in the 19th century to those set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future. The roles and stories are all intertwined. While Hollywood veterans like Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving and Halle Berry take on the multiple major roles in the film, Chinese actress Zhou Xun also took on three small parts in the film.

The directors still maintain that they have explored a whole new vision of film art with this movie and hope Chinese people will go see it and think, "You get more from this film. It's not like a James Bond film, the same old typical Hollywood production, where you see the trailer and you know what it will be like. With "Cloud Atlas," you would never know by just watching a trailer." The challenge ahead of course is the general release of James Bond's new episode "Skyfall" which falls on the same day as the premiere ceremony of "Cloud Atlas."

"Cloud Atlas" will hit Chinese screens on Jan. 31.

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