Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

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Lemmy Caution
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Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#1 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:13 am

Interesting article about films being altered to appeal to Chinese audiences -- or more often not to offend.
Hollywood yielding to China's growing film clout
"Hollywood really doesn't have a problem with Chinese censorship," Nitin Govil, a specialist in Asian cinema at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, said. "The problem it has is with Chinese unpredictability."
China restricts the number of foreign films allowed in theaters, which also means that any Hollywood film allowed a run is nearly guaranteed to turn a good profit.
I knew that Django Unchained was recently cancelled at the last minute, but wasn't aware that Iron Man 3 adds in a Chinese actor (and some Chinese scenes) not in the original release. Kind of an interesting marketing ploy there, and something that might become more common.

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MichaelB
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#2 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:07 am

This works in reverse, too - I remember discovering that the original (mid-80s) UK video release of Jackie Chan's Police Story had been heavily cut, and naturally blamed the BBFC. But when I saw the full version about fifteen years later, it was clear that the original international version had simply dropped scenes that were presumably judged to be unappealing to non-Chinese audiences - overtly comedic moments with what I imagine was untranslatable wordplay.

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jindianajonz
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#3 Post by jindianajonz » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:33 am

The link wouldn't work for me; I assume this is the same story? http://news.yahoo.com/hollywood-yieldin ... 19402.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Zot!
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#4 Post by Zot! » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:19 pm

MichaelB wrote:This works in reverse, too - I remember discovering that the original (mid-80s) UK video release of Jackie Chan's Police Story had been heavily cut, and naturally blamed the BBFC. But when I saw the full version about fifteen years later, it was clear that the original international version had simply dropped scenes that were presumably judged to be unappealing to non-Chinese audiences - overtly comedic moments with what I imagine was untranslatable wordplay.
The new WKW "The Grandmaster" is being reedited by the director for the international market. In general our rigid concept of "original theatrical release" versions being somewhat definitive is relatively new, and films were often reedited for certain markets. The Weinsteins are notorious. From what I've noticed, seems like HK is pretty loose in it's tolerance for such things.

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manicsounds
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#5 Post by manicsounds » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:47 am

"Cloud Atlas" being cut by 40 minutes, Bond killing a Chinese guard being cut from "Skyfall", "Men In Black 3" missing the Chinese restaurant sequence, etc. There's an infinite list of movies released in China after the censors.

Yet, there are the 2 recent cases of "Iron Man 3" and "Looper" having a longer version out in China with extra scenes.

And with only a small number of movies pass for cinema release in China, most people just wait for the VCD bootlegs to watch the unreleased-in-cinemas releases or the full uncut versions.

I'm not sure about how the DVD/Blu-ray (official stuff) market is over there. Do the movies that don't pass for a cinema release just go straight to video or do they not get released at all in China? Or how about cut/uncut status?

For example, the US/UK Blu-ray disc of "Skyfall" is the full uncut version, and includes Simplified Mandarin subtitles, meaning it is geared for mainland China as well. So if the same disc is sold in mainland China, it is available uncut only on Blu-ray?

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#6 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:14 am

Most of the Cloud Atlas cuts were done by the distributor, who felt (like a lot of people, apparently) that the movie was just too damn long. The Wachowskis bit their tongues and did some Chinese PR anyway, perhaps figuring the movie needed all the help it could get box-office-wise. It actually did pretty well here, relatively speaking.

The "extended cuts" of Looper and Iron Man 3 are partly marketing ploys, but they're not really good ones. Absolutely nobody in China was hankering for more footage of Xu Qing in Looper--Xu is only faintly recognizable to most people from TV dramas and The Founding of a Republic, and simply sticking a Chinese location in a foreign film is no longer a novelty. Iron Man 3 is a bit different, since Fan Bingbing is a genuine star, but in fact the reaction to the news of a "China-exclusive cut" has been mostly negative. People see it as pandering and Fan's part is being pre-emptively dismissed as a "soy-sauce" role ("getting soy sauce" being online slang for "just passing through" or "it doesn't concern me"). It would be kind of like if Police Story not only had a special cut for the U.S., but if that cut also featured a gratuitous one-scene cameo from Michelle Pfeiffer, and the U.S. distributor trumpeted this as a reason American viewers should feel super special.

But it's less about making Chinese viewers feel like unique precious snowflakes than about qualifying the film for some sort of semi-co-production status, without taking the onerous steps to become an "official" co-production (script pre-approval, 1/3 Chinese cast, 1/3 Chinese financing, etc.). Disney just hoped they could shoot in Beijing for a week or two and let Robert Downey Jr. schmooze the bureaucrats, and they'd get special treatment not granted to other imports. And that came true--imports can normally only be advertised within two weeks of release, but Iron Man 3 has been advertised for months, including a tie-in with the big CCTV New Year's Gala. It also looks like IM3 will be released just ahead of the May Day holiday, though the Film Bureau is jerking them around on this (no date has actually been announced yet, which means there's lots of behind-the-scenes pleading going on right now). Likewise, Looper got a release before the National Day holiday, albeit at the last minute. Normally these periods are reserved for domestic films and can easily add millions to the gross. Looper would've been lucky to make half as much as it did if it had opened during a non-holiday period, and it probably wouldn't have come out in China at all if it weren't a (semi-)co-production.

The hitch is that nobody knows how to meaningfully integrate "Chinese content" into these stories. It's one thing if your co-production is John Rabe or The Painted Veil, but it's a different problem if you're making a Hollywood action flick, given what viewers expect from these films vs. the innumerable "local sensitivities" you have to take into account. The security guard in Skyfall is one example, and Mission: Impossible III was censored because they didn't like the appearance of clotheslines in Shanghai (never mind that they're ubiquitous there and everywhere else in the country). Solution: shoot a bunch of filler, then leave it on the cutting room floor everywhere except mainland China. And now we hear that Transformers 4 is getting a "China-exclusive" cut; given that Transformers 2 was censored because they didn't like the idea of giant robots rampaging through Shanghai, get ready for more filler.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#7 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:51 pm

VCD's?
Someone's China references are a bit out of date.
Hell, China was using DVDs before they became commonplace in the US.
I used to joke with Chinese they they were digital and high tech while Americans were still renting and rewinding old-style tapes.

Also, there barely exists a network of legal Dvd sellers.
Mostly bookstores and a few other gov't run shops.
But even the Golden Age of Pirate DVDs has passed.
Dvd shops are closing or frequently in downtown Shanghai shrinking their store size.
Free downloads are killing the pirate dvd industry!

TFN is right, it's not just a matter of getting approved to show in a theater, but the timing can be crucial as well. Since there is an artificially limited supply of American films allowed in Chinese theaters, most of them do well (probably all, but I don't follow this). But if they are released over the holidays, they stand to make considerably more.

I probably would have gone to see Looper in a theater, but had already watched it on Dvd, and it was all right, but not a favorite so I didn't bother.

I think it's interesting if Hollywood -- at least blockbusters -- are toning down or eliminating Chinese as bad guys in order to appeal to the China market. But since so few films are allowed to be released in Chinese theaters (and the rest will be seen on pirated DVDs), I don't believe this will actually impact that many films. But from here on out, Tom Cruise is probably more likely to have a Chinese associate than enemy.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#8 Post by HistoryProf » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:44 am

Considering the fact that most of what gets edited for Chinese consumption are the big tentpole action flicks - Iron Man, Bond, Red Dawn Remake, etc - I don't really see a problem with it all. I'm not exactly concerned about preserving the artistic integrity of Transformers 4. If the studios want to put a few minutes of Chinese scenery and cut a few references to communism to secure funding or whatever, so be it. Ironically, those concessions will ultimately help fund smaller films that will never show in China but are essential to keeping our movie houses from becoming completely overrun by Hollywood schlock.

lesco
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#9 Post by lesco » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:57 am

The one thing that is NEVER mentioned among all the "Oh-my-god-those-repressive-Chinese-censors" hoo-hah is this:

Cinemas in China are regarded as family venues. This means no age-restricted material, nudity, violence that may be likely to upset, etc. It's G-rated just like a McDonalds or your local park - everyone can go there. If there is a popular film that will draw big audiences, but is not G-rated, then the Chinese censors will remove what is necessary to make it available for General Viewing.

It does NOT mean that any such films are censored wholesale, which seems to be the common misconception. It's just for the cinema releases (and TV broadcasts). You can walk into a shop here and buy uncut DVDs or Blu-Rays of 'Baise-Moi' or 'Salo' or 'Irreversible' or whatever else you find there.

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TMDaines
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#10 Post by TMDaines » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:57 am

And besides, the BBFC, in co-operation with the studios, are doing a similar thing in the UK to make blockbusters accessible for everyone at a 12A too. Thankfully, it is yet to affect anything I'm interested in.

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andyli
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#11 Post by andyli » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:33 am

lesco wrote:It does NOT mean that any such films are censored wholesale, which seems to be the common misconception. It's just for the cinema releases (and TV broadcasts). You can walk into a shop here and buy uncut DVDs or Blu-Rays of 'Baise-Moi' or 'Salo' or 'Irreversible' or whatever else you find there.
Well, what you said is true, but DVD or Blu-ray is still censored in China, only by a different authority, to a different degree. Those films you mentioned will never make their way to the legitimate video market.

Btw the story I like most about such ridiculous censorship with the protect-the-children mindset is that CCTV (the national TV station of China) once showed a Renaissance sculpture (David if I remember correctly) in its news session with certain part of the sculpture pixelized.

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#12 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:48 am

lesco wrote:The one thing that is NEVER mentioned among all the "Oh-my-god-those-repressive-Chinese-censors" hoo-hah is this:

Cinemas in China are regarded as family venues. This means no age-restricted material, nudity, violence that may be likely to upset, etc. It's G-rated just like a McDonalds or your local park - everyone can go there. If there is a popular film that will draw big audiences, but is not G-rated, then the Chinese censors will remove what is necessary to make it available for General Viewing.
I've never seen any indication here that cinemas are regarded as "family venues" any more than cinemas in the U.S. (If anything I see fewer kids in Chinese cinemas than I do in the U.S.) It's not like kids can't go to the cinema in the U.S., or in the UK or Hong Kong or anywhere else. It's just all those places (like most of the planet) have rating systems that can keep kids out of specific movies if they're judged too violent/sexual/etc. That doesn't mean the cinema is going to keep kids out of The Muppets because Shame is playing at the same time on screen #7; they're just going to keep the kids out of Shame because it has an NC-17/18/III. The Film Bureau refuses to implement such a system despite urgings from filmmakers, exhibitors (one chain devised their own advisory system in the absence of an official one), and a clearly not-insubstantial proportion of the audience.

This is also despite the fact that the Film Bureau does not actually require movies to be suitable for all audiences--which would require all films to be roughly on the level of Disney cartoons--and routinely passes films that are unambiguously not suitable for younger viewers. If SARFT honestly thinks that Dangerous Liaisons or even the censored versions of Drug War and Dredd are suitable for family viewing, then they are, to put it politely, huffing paint. Even Stephen Chow's Journey to the West caused a flap because the marketing painted it as a goofy romp with Sanzang and the Monkey King, leading a lot of parents to inadvertently expose their young'uns to stuff like slow-roasted corpses served as food. (In Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, the movie carried the local equivalents of a PG-13 rating, which I think is appropriate.)

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zedz
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#13 Post by zedz » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:43 pm

Not really related to the above conversation, but it is to the topic title:

I was intrigued to find, when I was watching the recent Taiwanese portmanteau film 10+10 (which I and just about everybody else was watching for the Hou contribution), that a couple of the shorts addressed the necessity for Taiwanese films to avoid any trace of nationalist references or symbolism, so that they can attain mainland sales. One of the shorts was entirely based on this idea, with a film crew turning up to their location only to find a massive Taiwanese flag rendering the site unusable. The gofer who shows up with the crowbars they need to pry the thing off is sarcastically praised for "saving Taiwanese cinema".


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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#15 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:25 pm

in late May a retired state television anchor, Cui Yongyuan ...posted on Weibo what appeared to be two contracts for an upcoming film, a sequel to one of Fan BingBing's early successes, “Cell Phone,” released in 2003. One purported to show a salary of $1.6 million to be reported to the tax authorities (for four days work, as was widely noted online), the second an actual payment of $7.8 million.

The practice of having dual contracts — known as “yin and yang” contracts — is widespread in many industries in China as a way to avoid taxes, but Mr. Cui’s accusation prompted the State Administration of Taxation to announce a broad inquiry into the entertainment industry.

In the aftermath of the tax investigation, the [Chinese] authorities also announced new limits on the salaries of actors, even in privately financed films. No one actor can now earn more than 70 percent of the entire cast or more than 40 percent of production costs.

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colinr0380
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Re: Censorship and Chinese Sensitivity

#16 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:05 am

I think the reason why Lemmy Caution has posted the above right now is because actress Fan Bingbing has disappeared from public life in the last couple of months.

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