Actress Xu Jinglei is currently in post-production for her second film Letter from an Unknown Woman which is slated to premiere at the upcoming San Sebastian Film Festival. She took time out to discuss how movies have inspired her.
City Weekend: Can you remember the first movie you ever watched?
Xu: When I was young, our school arranged for us to watch many movies with political messages like Jiao Yu Lu and Shao Nian Fan.
City Weekend: Of your favorite movies, are there any you've watched many times?
Xu: I have watched The Godfather and Schindler's List several times, but actually there are few movies I've watched more than once.
City Weekend: Your new movie is a re-make. Did the original influence you?
Xu: The original was shot a long time ago, back in the 1940's. Actually, I don’t like the original. I made the decision to shoot the movie based on the novel that I read many years ago.
City Weekend: How has your view of this story changed since then?
Xu: When I re-discovered the story and re-read it after 10 years, I was still very much moved, but for completely different reasons. When I was young, I disliked the guy and sympathized with the woman. Now I feel pity for the guy and see the woman as in control of her destiny.
City Weekend: Has your taste in movies also changed?
Xu: Of course, some movies I couldn't stand to watch for 10 minutes I now like very much. Wong Kar-wai's film Happy Together is one example. I couldn't handle the homosexual topic before, but now I can really appreciate and enjoy the film.
City Weekend: Any plans to direct a film without acting in it?
Xu: I think I will continue to act in the films I direct for a few more years!
City Weekend: What's in store next?
Xu: I have another film in the works. The story takes place in the city. I plan to finance it myself on a very small budget. For acting, I've signed a contract with a Japanese production company to shoot a film at the beginning of next year. The script is still being written, so the shooting dates aren't fixed yet. I'm interested in many different kinds of films. Besides American films, I especially like English and French films. I just began to direct so there are many directions for me to take. After you have directed many movies, you might think what can I do next, but I'm just starting, so there are many things I want to try, musicals, war stories, you name it…
(City Weekend September 6, 2004)