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更新时间:2014-4-18 21:35:09 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

A Film-Noir Hit in China

When Chinese director Diao Yinan began shooting his third feature film, his goal was to make a detective story involving ordinary people.

The result -- 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' -- is a noirish story about a former police officer investigating a grisly murder in northern China and falling in love with a key figure in the case. It grabbed the top prize -- the coveted Golden Bear award -- at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, and Liao Fan was named best actor.

'China today is greatly changing,' Mr. Diao noted prior to Berlin. 'I wanted to make a detective film depicting life in contemporary China' and to 'create a true representation of our new reality.'

Mr. Diao graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing in the late 1980s with a major in literature, and he worked as a screenwriter before turning his attention to directing. His first two films, 'Uniform' (2003) and 'Night Train' (2007), received critical acclaim and scooped up international awards.

With 'Black Coal, Thin Ice,' Mr. Diao has found his greatest success yet. Since its release in China last month, the film has pulled in more than 100 million yuan ($16.1 million) at the domestic box office -- a notable milestone for an art-house film in the country.

It is now hitting major festivals around the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend, the Far East Film Festival in Italy later this month, and the Sydney Film Festival in June. It will also go into general release in Hong Kong, France and Germany over the next few months, with other markets expected to follow.

Mr. Diao sat down with the Journal in Beijing to talk about reworking his script in order to secure investment, the impact of international awards on Chinese audiences and his love of reading. Edited excerpts:

You have said that Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story 'Wakefield,' about a husband who vanishes from his home for 20 years, inspired 'Black Coal, Thin Ice.'

At first, I wanted to write about a man in an irrational mental state. My original idea was that a man leaves home but secretly spies on his wife and kid for years, but then he eventually returns home. I wanted to show how irrational this man could be. Insanity always includes something complicated.

What changes did you make while writing the screenplay?

The first version was a very artistic story. The second one was based on a news story about a legal case, but it was too serious and had little commercial elements, and so it was hard to find investment.

So you added a love story in the final version. Why?

Love encompasses a lot -- it is not only about saying 'I love you,' dating and getting married. The most attractive part of love is before a couple says, 'I love you' to each other. It is what love really is. The leading female role was only a minor character in the first two versions. It was added as a result of commercial considerations, and also a result of my renewed understanding about love.

Your three films use crime as a theme. Why?

Crime is what people carry out when they struggle in life or are tortured by their feelings when they are lonely. It is a vivid expression of the relationship between humans and society. Everyone has an impulse inside that is waiting to be triggered. I always give a sympathetic look at those dark souls.

Is there anything you won't compromise on when meeting with potential investors?

The pursuit of art. The director must be the one in charge. The tone of the film cannot be altered. On the other hand, I understand that investors need to earn a profit. These two objectives can be coordinated. Luckily, we reached a win-win situation with this film.

What were your box-office expectations?

Right after the film won in Berlin, I did not expect it would earn so much. I thought it would be awesome if it could reach 50 million yuan, because many art-house films only earn about one or two million yuan in China's cinemas. Both the film and the leading actor won in Berlin, which triggered audiences' curiosity, so we got quite a lot of attention -- it became an event film. [Chinese film authorities] supported this film, which helped to expand the number of screenings. All of that contributed to the box office.

What are your thoughts on authorities' support?

It went beyond my expectations. I think it is a good thing. It really can help to change the market structure -- if the leadership takes the lead to support art-house film, audiences will be influenced.

Could it happen again?

Yes, because Chinese directors of art-house films are very capable. They can definitely make films that are entertaining and intriguing.

Does international recognition influence domestic audiences?

Many of the local audiences are watching the film simply because it won big awards. Chinese people are not that confident about our own work -- not until others recognize it. They go to watch it no matter whether they really understand it or not, but maybe some of them will fall in love with this kind of film after watching it.

What do you do in your free time?

Stare in a daze, play poker with friends and reading. In college, my classmates and I competed to see who could read more and whose books were more off the mainstream.

当中国导演刁亦男开始拍摄他的第三部作品——《白日焰火》(Black Coal, Thin Ice)时,他的目标是拍出一部讲述普通人故事的侦探悬疑片。





《白日焰火》接下来还将参赛全球其他重大电影节,其中包括本周末的翠贝卡电影节(Tribeca Film Festival)、本月晚些时候的意大利远东电影节(Far East Film Festival)以及6月份的悉尼电影节(Sydney Film Festival)。未来几个月《白日焰火》将在香港、法国和德国公映,之后预计还将在其他一些市场公映。


《华尔街日报》:你说拍摄《白日焰火》的灵感来自霍桑(Nathaniel Hawthorne)的一部讲述丈夫离家出走20年的短篇小说《威克菲尔德》(Wakefield)。