And Finally

Not a director’s cut

Controversy at the Shanghai Film Festival

A long way from the OC: Barton

Susan Sarandon was there, and so was Rupert Murdoch (to lend some star power to his wife Wendi Deng, who has now become a film producer). And perhaps more randomly, Hollywood also-ran Mischa Barton also turned up. Some readers may recall her in the hit TV series The OC.

The occasion was the Shanghai Film Festival. But it wasn’t the Hollywood stars that made the headlines during the event. Much more prominent was a dispute between Jacob Cheung, director of Rest on Your Shoulder, and the film’s distributor, Gao Jun.

The problem was that Gao had shortened Cheung’s film by at least 30 minutes without consulting the director, says NetEase Entertainment.

Cheung told Nanfang Daily that he had not even seen the trimmed version, and that the distributor had not bothered to ask for his opinion on the changes.

That wasn’t the only disappointment for Cheung. Unlike many of the other films shown at the festival, Rest on Your Shoulder was shown only once, and at a very small theatre. Members of the press waiting outside for a viewing were also denied entry.

The speculation was that Gao wasn’t keen on the media seeing the film that he was – nominally – tasked with promoting.

Perhaps that has something to do with the plot, which tells the story of a botanical scientist and his missing fiancée (who spends time as a butterfly)…

Even so, there were accusations online that the distributor was “butchering” the director’s work. But Gao denied it, telling Raymond Zhou, a columnist at the China Daily, that he agreed to take on distribution on condition that the film be shortened.

“It was a beautiful movie. What I wanted was to turn a plump beauty into a slender one,” Gao insisted.

But the story took on a more interesting turn when director Cheung found an unlikely ally in SARFT, the government film censor.

That’s because the shortened version needed a new licence for public screening, which panicked the film’s investors who worried that it could delay the the movie’s release.

Not wanting any further risks to their investment, they relented and pushed the distributor to show the director-endorsed version in cinemas instead, when it premieres on July 8.

“Since the director is so vehemently opposed to the shortened version, we respect his opinion and compromised,” backtracked Gao.

But he was also keen to dodge any blame should the film flop financially.

“I’m not going to make any promises about the box office. Now it’s the 120-minute version that is going to take all the pressure,” Gao warned.


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