China officials see film as ‘Curse’

Study Times piece criticizes pic's violence

BEIJING — Chinese auds may be flocking to see “Curse of the Golden Flower,” but leading cadres in the ruling Communist Party have joined critics in dismissing the glitzy, violent historical epic as bloodthirsty and hollow, declaring that the pic made them sick.

The $45 million epic is merely the latest in a line of gore-soaked movies blighting modern Chinese cinema, said a remarkably forthright op-ed piece in the Study Times, the official organ of the party’s training academy, and pic left a “feeling of nausea that would not go away.”

“Fine art is not built on money … movies that move audiences and critics are the simple and eternal questions of life, the stories that that can truly inspire people, and which include some basic moral guidelines,” said the editorial commentary.

In recent months there have been repeated calls for greater modesty and morality in public life from senior Chinese officials, who fear that sliding values could translate into political instability. In January, China’s broadcasting watchdog SARFT called for only “ethically inspiring” skeins during primetime in the run-up to the fall’s 17th Party Congress — a meeting of senior party officials where key leadership appointments will be approved.

Panned by critics, “Curse” has nevertheless broken B.O. records in China, taking in $35 million in three weeks in December. Gong Li’s ample cleavage has been the focus of massive media attention and satirical pieces.

It’s also significant that the powers-that-be should so harshly criticize a pic by Zhang Yimou, who many underground filmmakers in China consider a poacher turned gamekeeper for movies such as “Hero,” often seen as pro-Beijing propaganda.

Once banned for his low-budget, mildly subversive content, Zhang has been named as the mastermind of the Opening Ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a sign of complete political rehabilitation.

China’s state film industry put huge resources into making and promoting “Curse,” banning any potential competition during the launch and distributing a record number of prints of the pic around the country, even putting it forward as China’s candidate for a foreign-language Oscar.

“Some people even say Zhang Yimou is just a painter, throwing buckets of red on the silver screen,” said the Study Times editorial.

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