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'Creating Hollywood-Style Movies Would Be Suicide For Us'
Web-only interview with 'A Lingering Face' director Lu Xuechang

A scene from Lu Xuechang's 'A Lingering Face'.

October 26, 2000
Web posted at 7:00 p.m. Hong Kong time, 7:00 a.m. EDT

Lu Xuechang is a film director at the Beijing Film Studio and is one of China's most promising talents. His previous film, The Making of Steel, drew the heavy hand of Chinese censors; it underwent six edits before it satisfied the authorities. He spoke to TIME Asia entertainment reporter Stephen Short in Hong Kong recently. Edited excerpts:

TIME: I am interested in finding out who or what your influences are. Watching your film, I saw a lot of French movie influences.
I really like European films, especially the work of Italian directors. But when I was filming this movie, I didn't have any particular directors in mind.

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TIME: How heavily censored was your movie?
The censoring process mostly occurred during the writing of the script, so basically by the time we started filming, we already knew what was allowed and what was not. We had already done a huge amount of editing. My first movie, 'The Making of Steel," did have to go through a great deal of cutting and it was a terribly difficult process. It is a great challenge for me to express what I want in a film while at the same time resolving all censorship issues. What is most important for me is to get to communicate with the Chinese audience through my films, so I am determined to continue working with the government.

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'Creating Hollywood-Style Movies Would Be Suicide For Us': Web-only interview with 'A Lingering Face' director Lu Xuechang

TIME: Is Chinese cinema going through an identity crisis? With the increasing commercialization of film, are you suffering an identity crisis?
[China's entry to the] WTO will definitely have a huge effect on Chinese film. In reality, the challenges facing the domestic industry are huge. We have to learn to compete in a commercial market and this is very difficult. But at the same time, I don't advocate just making a purely commercial film. Because if we really tried to go down that road, and try and emulate Hollywood movies, we just could not compete. It would be suicide for the domestic industry. We are too far behind. I saw a movie that attempted to use special effects and computers, and Hollywood-type directing, and it only succeeded in looking like a poor imitation. I think the only way to resolve this problem is to try to make movies with unique Chinese characteristics, to bring our own unique experiences as Chinese into the film. If we can do this successfully, we will have something original and commercial at the same time.

TIME: Are you trying to create this type of movie, now? Do you see yourself on the forefront of developing this new type of Chinese movie?
Ideally, I would like to create these kinds of movies. I think it is imperative that movies remain an art form with great characters. And it is possible to create a movie that is an artwork and also commercially viable. The biggest challenge we are facing is learning to build a bridge between the commercial and the artistic in Chinese film.

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