Bale’s China flap shouldn’t affect pic

Flap over dissident visit shouldn't affect 'Flowers' at Oscars

The Chinese government has publicly criticized the star of its foreign-lingo Oscar submission following Christian Bale’s attempt to visit one of China’s most famous dissidents, Chen Guangcheng, while in the country to promote “The Flowers of War.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin was asked whether the incident had been embarrassing for the country, and Liu countered by saying he thought Bale should be embarrassed, not China.

Bale had been invited by the film’s director, Zhang Yimou, to attend the opening ceremony of “Flowers of War,” not “to fabricate news or shoot film in a certain village,” Liu said. “I think if you want to make up news in China, you will not be welcome here.”

Bale, who said he learned of Chen’s imprisonment for bringing attention to China’s forced abortion program while shooting “Flowers of War,” most likely set out to spotlight China’s treatment of dissidents. However, other journalists and diplomats have tried to visit Chen and have been chased off; the presence of CNN cameras this time around only amplified the situation.

Even so, it’s unlikely the incident will affect the Oscar chances of a film that has already had its fair share of controversy. One observer said that the foreign-language Oscar race still comes down to the quality of the movies. “At the end of the day, people either respond to the film or they don’t.”

The film is set against the backdrop of the 1937-38 Rape of Nanking, when Japanese soldiers took the city and murdered thousands of its citizens. Bale had previously been taken to task over his role in a pro-China film and denied it was an anti-Japanese propaganda pic.

The movie also caused a stir domestically after pic’s distribs, Beijing New Pictures Film, Huaxia Film Distribution and China Film Group, announced that the minimum price for a ticket would be hiked by five yuan (80¢), and said distribs would get an increased take of 45% of profits, with the cinemas getting 55%.

Distribs threatened to boycott the pic until the Film Bureau intervened with a compromise whereby the revised profit-sharing program applies only to the first 500 million yuan ($78 million) the film takes in at the box office.

“Flowers of War” picked up 152 million yuan ($24 million) in its opening weekend, slightly extended to include a Thursday opening, while Tsui Hark’s “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” featuring Jet Li, took $142 million ($22.4 million) in the same frame.