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Tang Wei’s B.O. Power Trimmed by Chinese Censors’ Strong Hand

Tang Wei’s popularity and recognition far exceed her box office performance in either China or South Korea.

She achieved instant notoriety in her first film “Lust, Caution” by stripping off and playing the part of a woman who went too far in her attempt to extract information from a Chinese man who was collaborating with the occupying Japanese forces. The film was censored in China, but managed $17.1 million at the box office. An uncut version played for months in Hong Kong, for a further B.O. score of $6.25 million, fueled by thousands of mainlanders crossing the border to see the scandal.

Four of Tang’s films have played in South Korea, with only “Lust, Caution” and “Late Autumn” making much of a dent. In China, six of her completed films have been released, and two were smash hits: “Lust, Caution” and “Finding Mr. Right,” a goofy Chinese-style version of “When Harry Meets Sally,” largely set in Seattle.

“Wu Xia” was a flop despite being her second-highest grossing film; it lost money for producer-director Peter Chan.

“Late Autumn” was made when Tang was still banned, but was done so abroad (also in Seattle) and under the initiative of a Korean production company. A remake of misfits romance “Manchu,” familiar to both Korean and Chinese audiences, it was imported into China and did nicely enough that its Chinese score topped its Korean total.

“Crossing Hennessy,” also made while she was banned in China, had little relevance beyond Hong Kong and barely made an impression at the China B.O. Jingle Ma’s all-girl motorbike actioner was a cute concept, but didn’t work in practice and disappointed everywhere it opened.

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