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Key for Chinese Film: To Be Entertaining
Stanley Tong, the Hong Kong director making a hit in Holleywood with his 44-episode TV series Martial Law, gave advice to the mainland film makers Wednesday in Shanghai.

Stanley's advice is that if a film wants to get well received in Holleywood and other western countries' cinemas, it should first be entertaining enough.

Stanley said these words at the Forum of the Development of Chinese Film and TV Wednesday. The forum is part of the academic activities of the 6th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF).

"Based on my experience and observation, film goers in the United States are mainly aged between 14 and 27 years old," Stanley said, "they take the hobby of going to the cinema as part of their entertainments. And they will seldom love the hard, dull and difficult films."

Stanley cited two pieces as examples. One is Spiderman, an exciting film that had gained a box income of US$1,000 million over one weekend in the United States. The other one is the TV series shot by Stanley himself. It's the Martial Law about a Chinese cop.

"When we want our films to enter a new market, we must know what the individuals of the market want and like first," said Stanley, "just like my success with the Martial Law."

Stanley had shot many other films starring Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong kungfu star as famous as the late big shot Bruce Lee of China. But only some made a splash in the United States. Other films that failed in US, on the contrary, were quite successful in the mainland.

"That means different market and different groups of viewers have different interests," Stanley said.

So, he put something new in his TV series Martial Law.

"What the US audience love in the past was Bruce Lee and his kungfu, but as nowaday US audience become more realistic and more acquainted with Lee's Chinese kungfu, they became tied of many scenes in one film all about kungfu and started to doubt whether Chinese kungfu is true or not (they don't believe one man can beat 20 or 30 strong enemies now and then even with injuries on body)," Stanley said.

In the Martial Law, Stanley showed to the audience a fat funny Chinese cop who seems not quite responsible. However, he was quite good at kungfu. His kungfu is unlike Bruce Lee's, he would also tumble, bleed and lose fightings. Besides, as he is fat and funny, he also makes many jokes.

"The fat cop makes the drama real and the jokes make it more entertaining," Stanley added.

Martial Law had kept a high TV rating in US. TV commercials for that time period reached US$20 million for every 10 minutes.

Learnt from Stanley's own experience, the amount of the investment also matters not so much in the success of a film.

"My last film with Jackie Chan was the very popular film series Supercop I, II and III. The first two episodes made such a hit in Hong Kong and the mainland that I put more money into the third. The scenes are resembling or surpassing some great scenes of typical Holleywood fimls. However, it turned out a flop in US box office records," Stanley explained.

"The thing is Supercop has nothing new to the audience and the viewers are acquainted with the money-squandering large scenes," he said.

In Stanley's eyes, it's not so difficult for Chinese films to enter the international market. The key is that domestic films must raise the interest and eagerness of the audience where it would be screened, of course, something new in the film is also required.

(eastday.com June 13, 2002)

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