Money is an aphrodisiac

A love story about investment bankers looks set to be box office winner

Money is an aphrodisiac

Meet your new M&A advisor: Xu Jinglei stars in Confidential

Next week brings the premiere of Confidential, a big-budget film that dramatises the life of investment bankers. Interesting timing, you may think, given that this is also the age of Occupy Wall Street.

But the film is more like a love story that happens to be set in an investment bank. The movie, in which Xu Jinglei stars and directs, tells the story of two investment bankers who used to date but now find themselves on the opposite sides of a takeover. While the two enemies duke it out in the boardroom, they also rekindle their romance.

Regular readers of WiC will recognise the actress Xu, also a blogger and filmmaker. Her last movie Go Lala Go garnered rave reviews (although there were some grumblings about over-enthusiastic product placement, see WiC59). Xu says the success of Go Lala Go – another comedy about office romance – has inspired her to make more films about white collar types.

Xu said she spent more than a year working on the script, talking to many bankers to make sure that the story line felt credible. The film, produced on a budget of Rmb40 million, was also shot in financial centres like New York, London and Hong Kong.

“I added more business and office elements. It’s an upgrade [from Go Lala Go] and gives me a chance to make improvements,” says the actress-director.

Confidential comes out on December 23 in an effort to tap into the Christmas holiday market. Zhang Yimou has also timed the release of his costume drama The Flowers of War, starring Hollywood star Christian Bale, to the holiday season. As did Hong Kong director Tsui Hark. with his upcoming release The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which is marketing itself as China’s first IMAX 3D martial art movie.

Studios typically roll out their biggest blockbusters of the year during the Lunar New Year. The Christmas season is less widely celebrated in China, with few local companies giving time off for the holiday. But it is still becoming more important. commercially. Last year Feng Xiaogang’s romantic comedy If You Are The One 2 went on to become a big hit after its release a week before Christmas, and action-comedy Let the Bullets Fly, the top-selling homegrown China film last year, was also released at a similar time.

Both The Flowers of War and The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate will be hoping for a repeat of that success this year, even though industry insiders wonder if The Flowers of War’s subject – the Nanking Massacre – may prove too intense for audiences in the holiday season.

So might Confidential emerge as an unlikely winner at the box office?

“China’s film market is big but is it big enough for two big budget blockbuster films? Personally I think it is bad for two films to be showing at the same time. It is very possible that they are both going to be casualties in this round of the battle for box office,” says film critic Yuen Feiyang.

But Confidential’s Xu accepted the challenge. “I am worried about the competition but I am not afraid of losing,” she told NetEase Entertainment. “The genre of those films are martial arts and war epics, but mine is a modern romance… I won’t be surprised if we reach Rmb200 billion ($31.4 million) in the box office!”

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