'Flower,' 'Reprise,' 'Transit' in Acad's mix

Zhang Yimou martial arts epic “The Curse of the Golden Flower” is China’s candidate for the foreign-language Oscar nomination, while helmer Joachim Trier’s “Reprise” is Norway’s hopeful.

“Flower” was long the favorite to win the support of Chian’s Film Bureau, with Feng Xiaogang’s “The Banquet” the only other movie with a chance.

But the way for “Golden Flower” was cleared when “Banquet” was put forward by Hong Kong instead (Daily Variety, Sept. 28).

To qualify for the Oscars, “Golden Flower” was given a limited screening in a single theater in Beijing starting Sept. 20. But the film is not likely to be given a conventional public release until December, when it will go wide.

Producers of a rival Oscar hopeful, Zhang Yibai’s comedy “Curiosity Killed the Cat,” said they will call for a public hearing in China and alert the Motion Picture Academy to possible rule violations.

These concern the last-minute change of venue from Shenyang to Beijing for the public screenings and the requirement that the print shipped to Los Angeles be substantially the same as the version in general release in the submitting country.

Like “Banquet,” “Golden Flower” involves Chinese and Hong Kong partners. Pic is produced by China’s Beijing New Picture Co. and Hong Kong’s Edko Films. International sales are handled by Gotham’s Focus Features, with the U.S. release through Sony Pictures skedded for late December.

Humorous drama “Reprise” beat an impressive lineup of candidates, including Cannes entries “The Bothersome Man” by Jens Lien; “Uro” by Stefan Faldbakken; and CG toon “Free Jimmy” by Christopher Nielsen.

“Reprise,” which drew the director prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and won the $10,000 Diesel Discovery Award at Toronto, opened Sept. 8 in Norway.

Produced by Karin Julsrud for production company 4½, Trier’s debut feature is a story of friendship and madness, love, disasters and youthful recklessness.

Also, Kambosia Partovi’s “Cafe Transit” has been chosen to represent Iran.

Pic tells the story of a newly widowed woman who opts to run her husband’s truck-stop restaurant in a small village instead of marrying her brother-in-law, as tradition dictates.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will announce the five nominees for the foreign-language Oscar on Jan. 23. Academy Awards take place on Feb. 25.

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