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Japanese Black Comedy ‘Key of Life’ Gets Chinese Remake

Production in China has got underway on a Mandarin-language remake of hit Japanese comedy “Key of Life.” The plot involves a failed actor who swap identities with a stranger, only to discover that the man is a top assassin.

The original film was produced and distributed by leading Japanese indie The Klockworx – along with production committee members including King Records, Dentsu and TV Asahi — in 2012. It was acquired for North American release by Film Movement.

“The original ‘Key of Life’ was a black comedy with both the story and the characters bordering on the absurd. The Chinese version will make the characters more local, but the essential structure of the screenplay will be kept intact,” a spokesman for production company Shanghai Artown Film told Variety.

The original screenplay written by director Kenji Uchida won prizes at the Kinema Junpo Awards, the Japan Academy and the Shanghai International Film Festival, where it bowed in 2012. The Chinese adaptation was penned by Chen Shu, best known for the two “Brotherhood of Blades” films. The Chinese film is being helmed by first time feature director Zheng Shi-long.

Several Japanese films have benefitted from a recent thawing of political relations between China and Japan and enjoyed successful releases in China. Two more reach Chinese screens next week: Children’s animation “Natsume’s Book of Friends,” and disaster-action anime “Mazinger Z: Infinity.”

Klockworx is not involved in the Chinese remake. Artown did not disclose details of the film’s planned global rollout, but said that it expects the film in Chinese theaters in 2020 – possibly joining the cluster of releases already vying for Lunar New Year spoils.

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