Three Chinese language movies will play in the different officials sections of the Cannes Film Festival, beginning on May 15.
Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin is the first mainland Chinese entry to compete for Palme d’Or in three years. (India’s last Competition entrant was in 1994, Shaji N. Karun’s Malayalam work, Swaham!)
A tweet by Jia read soon after the Festival Director, Thierry Fremaux, read out the list of movies in Paris on April 18, “I am back”. Jia will return to Cannes after three years. He was there on the Croisette (Cannes’ seafront) in 2010 with his I Wish I Knew as part of A Certain Regard, a section next in significance only to Competition that focusses on new helmers and experimental cinema.
The two other Chinese filmmakers will be Cannes stalwart Johnnie To with his thriller Blind Detective (which will screen out of competition at midnight) and first-time director Flora Lau with Bends (which will play in A Certain Regard). Both are from Hong Kong.
A Touch of Sin will pan across four threads of vastly different social and political landscapes in today’s China – from the bustling southern metropolis of Guangzhou to the more rural townships in Jia’s home province of Shanxi.
Starring Jiang Wu, Wang Baoqiang (of Lost in Thailand fame) and Jia’s wife, Zhao Tao, the movie was completed in five months with a crew of 100 people.
Mainland Chinese helmers were once a regular presence at Cannes, but this seems to be diminishing. The last time a mainland director got in was in 2010: Wang Xiaoshuai’s Chongqing Blues upgraded from A Certain Regarded to Competition. A Touch of Sin was similarly pushed up (No such luck for India).
Lau’s Bends examines the growing relationship between a listless, affluent socialite (played by Hong Kong star Carina Lau) and her driver (mainland A-lister Chen Kun). Designed by William Chang and photographed by Christopher Doyle, the two who helped many of Wong Kar-wai’s films reach glorious heights, Bends will compete for the Camera d’Or Prize (an honour which went to Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay a long time ago).
Johnnie To will walk the Red Carpet with his Blind detective – about a visually impaired former policeman (Andy Lau) working with a policewoman (Sammi Cheng) trying to crack the case of a woman missing for 10 years.
This year, Taiwanese cinema is absent from Cannes’ official lineup. But who knows. As Fremaux said in Paris, a few more movies could be included in the days to come.
Any hope for India? Let us keep our fingers crossed.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Cannes Film Festival this May.)