Monday, December 27, 2010

If You Are the One 2, or, what do I know about what mainstream-foreign distribution?

A couple months ago, I saw and reviewed Feng Xiaogang's last movie, Aftershock, and added a few words about getting foreign mainstream films in front of American audiences. Looking at them now, after the same group (China Lion Film) released this movie, I see that half of my comments seemed to be about right and half were way off.

If nothing else, it seems clear to me that mainstream foreign films can be quite viable in the U.S. if played in the right neighborhoods and if the distributors get them out ahead of the pirates - although, as I likely should have noted back in November, one screening is not really a useful sampling. For instance, I thought Aftershock was a disaster, considering the single handful of people in the theater when I saw it, but it apparently did well enough to hang around in a split-theater situation for a second week. If You Are the One 2, on the other hand, had a fairly crowded house Sunday afternoon - and that's potentially no small feat, considering that it meant people were coming out despite a blizzard warning.

So, what's the next step? Well, for China Lion, the next two movies listed on their site are Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (due out in China in early February) and The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman (apparently due out in China this coming weekend). Supposedly, they are planning to release around 15 films per year internationally, so they may actually do two new Chinese releases in relatively short order. I personally hope that other, similarly aggressive distributors will pop up for Korean, Japanese, and other nationalities' films.

These hypothetical distributors may have a harder time, though, in that even cities the size of Boston don't seem to have well-defined Japanese and Korean neighborhoods with theaters nearby akin to Chinatown, at least not that I know of. AMC Boston Common is very close to Boston's Chinatown, which makes playing the occasional Chinese-oriented movie a canny choice. These movies do seem to be marketed directly to the Chinese immigrant community, as well - not only did my ticket stub say "Fei Cheng Wu Rao 2" as opposed to the English translation, but the Subway Cinema newsletter seemed taken by surprise about it opening on four screens in New York City - and when the New York Asian Film Festival guys don't see your release coming, you're flying under some radar.

Fei Cheng Wu Rao 2 (If You Are the One 2)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 December 2010 at AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run)

Romantic comedies (and romances in general) probably shouldn't have sequels; after all, if you want to recapture what made the first work, you've got to either roll back the happy ending of the first or shift the focus to a new couple, and who knows if they have the same chemistry. This holds true even when the movie in question is the highest-grossing film ever in the most populous country in the world. Resist temptation, or you'll get something like If You Are the One 2: Nice enough in spots, but fighting an uphill battle.

Two years ago, Qin Fen (Ge You) fell into a relationship with Liang Xiaoxiao (Shu Qi), despite the fact that she is some twenty years his junior and they had intended to just be friends. Two years later, he has proposed to her. However, things don't always run smooth - their best friends, Mango (Yao Chen) and Li Xingshan (Sun Honglei), are getting divorced after five years, and it leads Xiaoxiao to suggest a "test marriage" to see if their love will last once their initial ardor cools.

From what I gather, describing the original film (which I have not seen) as a romantic comedy may not be wholly accurate; if the sequel is similar in tone, it is a contemplative love story that is frequently funny because romance can be crazy at times. In that case, this movie's odd changes of tone is in perfect keeping with the series, although the extreme nature of its mood swings is rather unsettling. If You Are the One 2 starts out not just funny, but with an emotional complexity that romances seldom attempt, and the process of pulling Fen and Xiaoxiao apart and back together seldom approaches the same level of wit.

Full review at EFC.


Unknown said...

with an english subtittle ?

Jason said...

Yes, I probably should have mentioned that - both this as Aftershock played with English and Chinese subtitles, so you can get through it whether you speak English, Mandarin, or Cantonese.