Zhang Yimou's blockbuster Curse of the Golden Flower is back in the headlines after it was criticized as "ugly" and "bloodthirsty."
The violence depicted in China's homemade blockbusters transgresses "the moral limits of Chinese art," said a signed article in the Study Times, a periodical published by the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
"Watching the Curse of the Golden Flower makes one feel nauseous. This is a bloodthirsty movie," said the article, under the byline of Tao Dongfeng.
The author fired off several rounds of attacks at big-budget movies such as The Banquet directed by Feng Xiaogang, The Promise by Chen Kaige, and House of Flying Daggers, also directed by Zhang Yimou, saying that many Chinese directors are exaggerating and celebrating violence in their films.
He then went on to compare Chinese and Hollywood blockbusters, citing his personal opinion that, despite criticism of the latter for showing too much violence in scenes, "they at least can tell right from wrong, justice from evil."
Zhang Yimou's US$45-million epic Curse of the Golden Flower, a story of bloody palace intrigue in ancient China, has won box office success on the Chinese mainland amid criticism.
So far, the Curse has racked up over 250 million yuan (US$32.3 million) from the domestic market.
Chinese blockbusters often feature revenge stories, but the author feels that virtually none of the characters seeking revenge nor their enemies, rulers, rebels, authority figures, challengers represent justice and conscience.
Chinese directors are accused of being obsessed with big-budget movies, and some feel they have forgotten one simple truth: "Things that touch people are usually plain and simple; an extravagant style and an empty story line do not make a good movie."
The article said the directors used to blame their poor performance at the Oscars on a lack of money. But the millions invested in recent blockbusters haven't improved their Oscar showing.
"Fine art was not built on money. Extravagant and lavish scenes do not make a good movie. Violence and sex are not enough," he explains, adding that, "Morality on its own cannot make great art. But without it, the so-called blockbusters only make people feel bad."
(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2007)