Behind the scenes

By Xiong Yuqing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-6 20:08:01

Lu Chuan Photo: CFP

A scene from The Old Cinderella Photo: Courtesy of Chuan Films

With a series of international awards under his belt, the 43-year-old Lu Chuan has been described as one of the most talented and promising young directors in China. After working in the industry for 15 years and experiencing many ups and downs, Lu, now more mature and professional than ever, is preparing for a new start.

Though his much-anticipated movie version of the novel series Ghost Blows Out the Light is still shrouded in mystery, Chinese audiences can now see The Old Cinderella at theaters starting from Friday. This marks the first time Lu has worked as an executive producer on a film.

Step into romance

Differing from Lu's previous movies, The Old Cinderella is a lighthearted romantic-comedy which tells the story of Xu Ke, a divorced mother looking to start a new life. Much of the plot is told in a joyful way as humorous sparks fly between our heroine and the rich, young, handsome man that falls in love with her.

Lu told the Global Times that it wasn't an accident that he decided to try his hand at a romantic film. "I wanted to try this type of romance when I first started working as a director, but I had prior plans for other types of movies. But, you might see me direct a romance in the future," said Lu.

His first time as an executive producer, Lu described his role as somewhat behind the scenes. "If we say that the movie is like an ocean liner, the luxurious parts such as the swimming pools and dancing hall belong to Zhang (Jingchu) and (director) Wubai, whereas I'm the anchor under the water," said Lu. "They have successfully made things very beautiful and coherent, while what I'm trying to do is help the movie hit audiences somewhere deep in their hearts."

Lu fell in love with the story from the first time he read the script, and so did Zhang. At first Zhang intended to direct the movie as well as act in it. However, with all of the plot lines centering around her character, Xu Ke, she realized that she was just too busy to handle everything. Lu suggested that Zhang choose one side or the other, either act or direct, and in the end Zhang decided to stick with acting. However, considering the contributions she had already made to the story, some of which Lu really admired, he decided to keep her on as a producer as well as an actress. Soon after he brought on a fresh director, new up-and-coming director Wubai, to take over the directing helm.

"Wubai is introverted and sensitive. I've seen his micro-films, so I trusted that he could control the story's rhythm and manage delicate details," Lu told the Global Times.

"I tried to limit myself to technical parts, and keep the movie grounded in emotions and rooted in a female point of view. You may not see many 'Lu Chuan style' masculine elements in this movie, as I kept in my mind that this was their (Zhang and Wubai's) maiden work," he added.

Drawn to reality

In 2002, Lu's own maiden movie The Missing Gun won a Golden Horse in Taibei, while 2004's Kekexili: Mountain Patrol bagged the Special Jury Prize at the 17th Tokyo International Film Festival. This success led many to describe Lu as one of the most promising directors of his generation.

Though his following work - 2009's City of Life and Death, which describes the Nanjing Massacre in 1937 from the unique point of view of a Japanese soldier - received both harsh criticism and strong praise, it still snagged him Best Film at the San Sebastian Festival in Spain while making him a hot topic of discussion both at home and abroad.

In The Old Cinderella, Lu continues in this vein trying to ensure the story reflects relationships in reality. "Although it's a light romantic comedy, we produced it with a very serious attitude. I hope people can see themselves and see things reflected in their own hearts after watching this movie."

Lu denied that he tried this genre as a means to cater to the market after a series of romance movies succeeded at the box office. "There are too many romance movies in the theaters. Most of which will probably fade from people's memories as time goes by. However, romance is a classical movie type, and a good story can be remembered for a long time," he said.

Not a compromise

The past two years haven't been easy for Lu. Though Lu showed confidence at the premiere of The Last Supper in 2012, his first attempt at a historical drama failed at the box office and led to a loss for investors. Meanwhile, many critics described the movie as "too arty in its story telling."

Since accepting the failure of The Last Supper, Lu has been examining his movie career. "I realized that I was telling stories in the wrong way," Lu concluded. "In the past I thought too much about what I wanted to shoot and tried to find a way to present everything through metaphor and poetry. However, this turned out to be difficult for the public to accept. Now I'm trying to tell stories in a clear and comprehensive way. This is not a compromise, but a demand from audiences."

Lu said he learned a lot from his recent work over the past two years. For instance he was involved in the live show Attraction at the Bird's Nest last year, an event receiving investment from the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and involving some top name talent from overseas.

"It was very commercial. We needed to coordinate between the different production teams and sponsors. The show was produced in a very mechanical way, and that was a good lesson for me," said Lu.

Lu feels that this experience helped him in his work as an executive producer on The Old Cinderella as it allowed him to see both sides of making a film, the commercial side and the artistic side.

"I am trying to find a balance. Not only so the movie can live now, but also continue to live in people's memories in the future," Lu told the Global Times.

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