The Chinese movie industry has always considered Cannes friendly ground.
It is the location of choice for many Chinese filmmakers to premiere their films.
That tradition continues this year with the opening of three films.
Both 2046 by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, and Chinese mainland director Zhang Yimou's latest martial arts epic, House of Flying Daggers (Shimian Maifu), were critical favorites at this year's festival.
Another action flick, Breaking News (Da Shijian), directed by Hong Kong low-budget action movie king Johnnie To Kei-fung, was also warmly welcomed.
House of Flying Daggers
This is the latest martial arts epic by celebrated Chinese director Zhang Yimou.
Zhang's last blockbuster, Hero (Yingxiong), a smash hit across Asia and China's top box office earner, paid too much attention to visual effects to the detriment of plot integrity and logic, critics charged.
House of Flying Daggers is similar to Hero in many ways, but it is also very different.
It was the favorite among almost all Chinese media at Cannes.
"It was met with spontaneous applause which lasted nearly 20 minutes," wrote the Beijing Youth Daily.
Chinese media say the movie inherits all the shining points of Hero, such as the eye-popping fight sequences, while wisely avoiding its flaws.
House of Flying Daggers looks certain to be a smash hit.
According to the Beijing Youth Daily, producer Zhang Weiping said the film's Japanese distribution rights sold for 85 million yuan (US$10.2 million), while the North America distribution rights went for 115 million yuan (US$13.8 million).
Many international media have also spoken highly of the movie, using words like "dazzling," and touting it as a success on the level of Lee Ang's Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
House of Flying Daggers is set in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
The central force in the film is a shadowy revolutionary alliance known as the House of Flying Daggers. Their leader is assassinated, but a mysterious new leader quickly takes over. Two police captains are ordered to capture this leader within 10 days, a virtually impossible task. Meanwhile, a beautiful blind dancer, Mei, may be connected to the assassinated leader and seeking revenge.
As an internationally acclaimed director, Zhang Yimou has been nominated three times for an Oscar.
Despite his international reputation, Zhang's previous works, such as Red Sorghum (Hong Gaoliang) and Raise the Red Lantern (Dahong Denglong Gaogao Gua), were not warmly received at home.
Critics and movie-goers, said Zhang's movies depict China as an uncultured and backward country.
Zhang picked up contemporary social themes a few years ago, with Qiu Ju Goes to Court (Qiu Ju Da Guansi) and Not One Less (Yige Dou Buneng Shao).
After the world-wide success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang began focusing on martial arts epics.
"Martial arts films are full of possibilities and I want to fully exploit them," the director said after the screening.
Zhang said he was not trying to copy Lee's success, but, as a loyal fan of martial arts novels, has always wanted to shoot a martial arts movie.
"Every director in China is interested in kung fu films. Martial arts are an extremely interesting genre as you find a mixture of action and emotion. For each director, this is a challenge," he said.
To shoot Hero, the crew traveled to many places in the world in search of pristine landscapes.
About 40 percent of House of Flying Daggers was shot in the Ukraine.
Like Hero, House of Flying Daggers is also star-studded. Hong Kong's superstar Andy Lau and the half Chinese, half Japanese Takeshi Kaneshiro, play the roles of the two police captains.
Zhang Ziyi, an international star rising in China, plays the heroine, the blind dancer at the Peony Pavilion brothel.
To prepare for the role, she said she lived for two months with a blind girl.
The long-awaited 2046 is Wong Kai War's eighth film since 1988.
This visually ravishing, intricately plotted new movie about memory, loss and desire, is a sequel to In the Mood for Love (Huayang Nianhua), Wong's art-house hit of 2000 that won him household reputation in China.
Although shooting began earlier than In the Mood for Love, it came out much later.
Shooting began in 1995 but was stopped several times.
Movie-goers and media, eager to watch the movie, were disappointed time and time again.
Many joked that it would not be completed until the year 2046.
The last-minute scenes were still being shot even after the Cannes film festival opened.
Wong was quoted as saying at a press conference that he was relieved to have completed a project five years in the making.
"The only thing that matters is that we finally finished the film. We've worked hard and spent time and effort, and we've deserved everything if it comes to us," he said.
As one of the most renowned cult directors in China, Wong has a huge, and still growing, base of loyal fans. Besides In the Mood for Love, his other movies include Happy Together (Chunguang Zhaxie), Ashes of Time (Dongxie Xidu) and Chungking Express (Chongqing Senlin).
The latest work gathers several of the hottest actors and actresses in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Among them are Gong Li, Wang Fei and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who won the Best Actor Award at Cannes in 2000 with his outstanding performance from In the Mood for Love.
Zhang Ziyi also has a role in 2046.
(China Daily May 24, 2004)