×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Feng Xiaogang Cut From ‘Ash Is Purest White’ as Fan Bingbing Scandal Spreads

Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke’s drama “Ash is Purest White” will get its theatrical release this Friday in China – but with cuts that may reflect the sensitivity of the current political-cultural climate in the Middle Kingdom.

The film, which follows the turbulent lives of a gangster couple over a 17-year period, was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last week in a version that was six minutes shorter than the version that played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The new version was labeled as a director’s cut.

“This is a normal process which improves the flow of the narrative,” a spokesman for MK2 Films, the movie’s French co-investor and international sales agent, told Variety. “It is always a rush to prepare a film for Cannes. And [Jia] did the same thing with ‘Mountains May Depart’” from 2015.

But Chinese media reported that the edits specifically remove the cameo appearances of Feng Xiaogang, the high-profile film director who is embroiled in the scandal and rumor mill surrounding celebrity actress Fan Bingbing. Fan has been accused of hiding part of her income from an appearance in Feng’s upcoming film “Cell Phone 2.” Fan and Feng have both denied accusations of tax dodging.

In 2017, Fan attended the launch party in Cannes for Jia’s new Pingyao film festival. This year she walked the Cannes red carpet for the world premiere of “Ash.” Her disappearance from public view since late July has fueled suggestions that she is being detained by authorities against her will.

At a public screening of “Ash” in Beijing on Sunday, Jia dodged questions about cutting out Feng. “It is complicated,” he said onstage, according to reports by Chinese website Mtime.

Jia is China’s highest-profile art-house director. He has made a career of chronicling the changes in Chinese society wrought by the country’s breakneck modernization. That has made him a darling of overseas festivals – Toronto’s Platform section was named after Jia’s 2000 film of the same title – and a recurring pain for Chinese authorities.

While Jia’s first four features were considered underground works, more recently he has received partial financial backing and local release through state-owned companies including the Shanghai Film Group. His films are considered auteur works and reach much smaller audiences than those of Feng, but Jia has successfully steered a course between social critique and outright antagonism of authorities who would prefer to present a rosier picture.

Even so, his recent films have depicted the effects of the massive Three Gorges infrastructure project, collusion between crooked businessmen and civil servants, and the alienating impact of working in the Chinese mega-factories that make iPhones.

“Ash” is by far his biggest film in terms of budget, with much of it spent on painstaking recreations of sets and costumes that were current less than two decades ago but which are now obsolete.

“The social environment in China has experienced great transformation during the 17 years of the story,” Jia told Variety in May. “There were no high-speed trains back then, only slow green ones. City appearances, people’s clothing and communication products all looked very different then. We invested huge amount of money in sets and production design. In my cinema language and style, I like to place people in a natural and authentic environment which leads to lots of scheduling in large and public spaces, filling the spaces with extras, and making sure all details are in line with reality back then.”

More Film

  • Bradley Cooper speaks at the 30th

    Producers Guild Shifts 2020 Awards Show to Hollywood Palladium

    The Producers Guild of America will hold its 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, shifting the site from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The PGA had already announced that the show would take place on Jan. 18. The organization, which represents more than 8,000 producers, announced Thursday that it has launched a new [...]

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Salma Hayek Owen Wilson Bliss

    Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson to Star in Amazon's Sci-Fi Drama 'Bliss'

    Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson have signed on to star in Amazon’s science-fiction drama “Bliss,” with Mike Cahill directing from his own script. Wilson portrays a recently divorced man whose life is falling apart when he meets Hayek’s character, a woman who lives on the streets and is convinced that the polluted, broken world around [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • 'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works

    'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works From Original Screenwriter (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nearly a decade after the success of “Easy A,” a spinoff of the coming-of-age comedy is in the works. Sources tell Variety that Screen Gems has appointed Bert Royal, who penned the first script, to write and direct the upcoming movie. Insiders stress that the film is still in early development, as Royal is still [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content