Buying Search On For Chinese Fare

With Chinese-language fare riding high on the shopping lists of buyers and fest chiefs, the ’95 lineup from East Asia promises a potentially rich harvest despite a raft of production problems at home.

The possibility of new pix by Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige going head-to-head at Cannes has been averted, after casting snafus forced Chen’s “Temptress Moon” to shut down late last year halfway through shooting. Gong Li will take over the period meller’s lead femme role when production resumes in March. Zhang’s drama, “Shanghai Triad,” also starring Gong, is expected to bow on the Croisette in May.

With Ang Lee due to start shooting Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility” in the U.K. this spring (with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, from former’s script), Taiwan’s Cannes charge could be led by Sylvia Chang’s “Siao Yu,” the story of a mainland girl’s green-card marriage to a New York Italian (Daniel Taranti), adapted from a novel originally set in Australia. Lee exec produced the pic for CMPC after bowing out of directing it.

Also due from Taiwan in ’95 is Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Good Man, Good Woman,” his first film since “The Puppetmaster” but not part of his continuing Taiwan trilogy.

As the borders between the China, Taiwan and Hong Kong industries continue to blur, the diaspora westward also could become higher profile in ’95. Lee and John Woo now are working for U.S. majors and stars Chow Yun-fat, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li and Monica Lu all are expecting to bow stateside this year.

At home, mainland directors face tough censorship rules for pictures using offshore coin, plus an insecure marketplace as the country opens up to foreign distribs. In Hong Kong producers are faced with ballooning, star-driven costs, a B.O. squeeze from American crowd-pleasers and declining revenues from East Asia. In Taiwan the government-funded Central Motion Picture Corp. has subsumed a large chunk of the indie industry with a program of pix by new names.

Also skedded for ’95:

* China

Wu Ziniu’s “Nanjing 1937,” about the Japanese massacre of Chinese civilians. Woo exec produces for Taiwan’s Long Shong Intl.; Huang Jianzhong’s “Rice,” from Su Tong’s novel about a peasant who scores in the big city; Zhang Yuan’s docu “The Square,” a portrait of Tiananmen shot in mid-1994; and He Jianjun’s psychodrama “Postman” (both preemed at Rooterdam). Also, Wang Xiaoshuai’s “Beijing Story” (aka “Suicide”); Zhang Zi’en’s “Testudo,” a historical drama in English, shooting in Ningxia; Wang Jin’s rural meller “Woman, Flowers” (in Berlin market); Xie Fei’s drama “Black Steed”; Sherwood Hu’s mystical fantasy “Warrior Lanling,” with all dialogue in an invented language; Huang Jianxin’s ’30s-set satire, “Dumb Bride, Dumb Egg”; and Wu Tianming’s “Change of Mood,” marking the “exiled” helmer’s return after five years.

* Hong Kong

Upcoming are Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time in China 5” and Mabel Cheung’s long-planned “Sung Family Dynasty,” about one of China’s most renowned political families. Also, Kirk Wong currently is producing a pic about a scandal involving H.K.’s anticorruption bureau, ICAC.

* Taiwan

Wang Tung’s “Red Persimmon,” the story of a woman’s journey from Henan to Taiwan, 1949-60; Sylvia Chang’s long-in-the-works “Mother’s Wedding,” partly based on her mother; Wan Jen’s survey of 40 years of Taiwan politics through the eyes of one family, “Super National”; Liu Yi-ming’s “Junior”-like “Kangaroo Man”; and Chen Kuo-fu’s love story “The World Above Heaven,” based on a Yuan dynasty drama.

* Elsewhere

Following the Hong Kong-set drama “A Date in Portland Street,” Zhang Zeming starts “Foreign Moon” in London in March.