Seven minutes is not a long time. But for the latest blockbuster from auteur Taiwan director Ang Lee, seven minutes makes a world of difference.
That's the time "trimmed" from the original version of Lee's Lust, Caution, which was released on the mainland last week. The film had its world premiere in late September without the cuts, the version that Hong Kong audiences also got to see.
Those seven minutes, deemed too racy for mainland audiences by the censors, has seen mainlanders, especially from Guangzhou, flocking to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) to see what the fuss over the unedited version is all about.
The most important reason for mainlanders rushing to Hong Kong is the missing sex scenes, says Qiu Qing, of South China Cinema Line in Guangzhou.
"I planned to go to Hong Kong to see the movie last month," said 20-year-old Luo Tingting of Guangzhou. "I will probably go later to buy a DVD, but I know a lot of my friends have already gone to Hong Kong to watch the unedited version."
Cinemas in Hong Kong have reported a significant number of mainlanders at every show since the film's September opening.
"I would say about 25 to 30 percent of our audience has been from the mainland," said a services assistant at AMC Pacific Place in Hong Kong. "We know they are from the mainland because we have to check IDs."
"About half the audience seems to be from the mainland during the week and that goes up to 70 to 80 percent on weekends," said Ada Chan, cinema supervisor at Palace IFC cinema in Central.
"Normally our films run for two to three weeks. But this movie has been doing very well, so it's likely the distributor will want us to screen it for another three weeks or so."
The large number of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong to watch the movie is not surprising, says Woody Tsung, head of Hong Kong and Kowloon Motion Picture Industry Association.
But that doesn't mean the mainland censor's decision is harsh.
"The mainland doesn't have a film classification system like we do in the SAR. Films screened on the mainland can be seen by people of any age group. I have seen Lust, Caution and believe the scenes cut from the film would not have been suitable for young viewers," Tsung said.
Hong Kong cinemas, however, are running special announcements, warning cinema-goers against trying to record the film. They are searching the bags of everybody to ensure nobody records it illegally.
But, Guangzhou Zhujiang Cinema Line manager Xie Shimang said, the trend of mainlanders making a beeline for Hong Kong cinemas to watch the "full" film has had "little impact on our box office".
Qiu said: "I know a lot of people have gone to Hong Kong to watch the film. But we have still had large audiences here."
Though neither Qiu nor Xie could give the exact number of people crossing the border into Hong Kong to see the film, both estimated they could be in the tens of thousands.
(China Daily November 10, 2007)