A ‘Shanghai’ shoot

China's top producer Feng slates two features

SHANGHAI — Hsu Feng, the award-winning producer of “Farewell My Concubine,” is planning two features for China, including the film version of the best-selling book “Life and Death in Shanghai,” by Nien Cheng.

In an interview, Hsu said that her Tomson Film Co. was also planning a feature on the early years of Jiang Qing (alias Madame Mao), from her time as a starlet in Shanghai to her romance and marriage to China’s Great Helmsman, which is going by the working title, “The Last Lipstick of Yanan.”

Both of the films touch upon politically sensitive issues, including the tumultuous Cultural Revolution and the years in Yanan, the communist base during their formative years.

Hsu appealed for the Chinese government to put its fears of the Cultural Revolution behind it.

“They need to deal with the Cultural Revolution in order to move forward,” she said. “They still see it as a fresh scab, and are afraid of opening the wound again”.

Hsu, who will be given a prize as an outstanding producer at the upcoming Cannes festival, said that the sensitive nature of the films is making it difficult to obtain a greenlight from the Chinese government.

Hsu obtained the film rights to “Life and Death in Shanghai” in the early 1990s, and has already gone through nine script revisions. The screenplay for the Madame Mao picture is being done by Lilian Lee, who also wrote the novel “Farewell My Concubine.”

“The Chinese government doesn’t care what place Chinese films have in the outside world,” Hsu said. “They want us to shoot films about reform, but who wants to go see films about that?”

The producer said that she would consider taking the “Life and Death in Shanghai” production to Taiwan if the authorities in Beijing continued to block the picture here.

Hsu pointed out that no mainland Chinese films would be participating in Cannes this year and cautioned that this could spell disaster for the future of the Chinese film industry unless Beijing relaxes its tight grip.

Hsu, a Taiwan native who began working in the film business in 1967 as an actress, broke into international fame with Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the highest international award ever won by a Chinese film.

Her last production on the mainland was “Temptress Moon,” also a collaboration with director Chen.