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Zhang Yimou Calm over Mixed Reviews for Box Office Hit Curse
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Chinese director Zhang Yimou is trying to maintain a philosophic calm in the face of mixed reviews for his latest box office hit, Curse of the Golden Flower.

"Like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, this film has attracted a large audience and a big range of comments," said Zhang, at a ceremony in south China's Guangzhou City to celebrate the early success of the Curse.

Curse, a story of bloody palace intrigue in ancient China, racked up 169 million yuan (about US$21.7 million) at the box office in 10 days since premiering on Dec. 14.

Both the female lead Gong Li and the male lead Chow Yun Fat were absent but the ceremony in Guangzhou still caused a sensation.

Fans surrounded the five-star hotel where the ceremony was being held. Models dressed up like the characters in the movie vied with each other to shake hands with Zhang Yimou and Jay Chow. The special guests, journalists and hotel staff joined the throng.

The movie posted box office revenue of 30 million yuan (US$3.8 million) in Guangzhou in its first 10 days.

The movie is likely to set a new box office record for Chinese homemade movies, surpassing the 250 million yuan (US$31 million) of Zhang Yimou's Hero in 2002.

The movie cost 360 million yuan (about US$46.2 million) to make, the biggest ever investment on a movie in China. Zhang estimates 1 billion yuan of box office revenue at home and abroad will be needed to recover the investment.

Despite its robust performance at the box office, Curse has been lambasted by some critics.

The film failed to win the expected nomination for best foreign-language film at the Golden Globe Awards. And it has been criticized at home for its over-lavish scenes, gratuitous costumes and weak storyline.

Supporters said the scenes and costumes reflected the era of the story, the story was good and the movie had cemented Zhang's reputation as a "master of the visual arts".

Zhang feigned indifference to the criticism, saying he needed time to calm down and have a "thorough reflection". Before attending the celebration in Guangzhou, Zhang was busy directing his original opera The First Emperor in New York.

Zhang said he didn't consider himself "a very big potato" and said he was no slave to public opinion. The important thing is that he "feels no regrets" about the work.

"I just love making movies," said Zhang.

Curse of the Golden Flower is director Zhang's third attempt to shoot a martial arts epic following his House of Flying Daggers in 2004 and Hero in 2002, both of which were box-office hits.

(China Daily December 26, 2006)


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