×
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

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. The two titles are the only current bright spots as overall moviegoing for 2019 trails far [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Black Panther Composer

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Scores

    Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content