Over the last few years, China has become the biggest market for American movies. Even films that flopped in Hollywood have made a lot of money in China. Since the days of HongKong Martial arts movies, Hollywood has learnt a lot from its Chinese counterparts.
The Chinese pioneered the work on wire assisted fight scenes. Even before CGI was a reality, Chinese martial art movies created lofty standards for fight sequences. Their fight choreography, action, energy and the movement were unsurpassed.
Years later, you would see similar action sequences in the Hollywood productions, without the same amount of energy.
Another idea that the Chinese have mastered is the creation of epic moments throughout the movies. Be it the daggers flying in a brothel in House of Flying Daggers or the dazzle of the Chinese emperor’s palace in Hero, they know how to create art pieces inside a frame.
If you think the Chinese are known only for their action movies, take a look at the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yes, it is primarily an action movie. But Ang Lee gives us such a sublime experience in the film that it is hard to realize how much action is compressed within the movie. And should we even talk about the scenery in the movies? It is very hard to compare this movie with anything from the Hollywood studios.
Keeping the lessons learnt by the American filmmaker from their Chinese counterparts aside, the relationship between the two sides is not as cordial as you imagine. China had created a strict limit of 35 western movies a year into their domestic market if the movie meets certain criteria. This has led to a contest between different Hollywood production houses to get a piece of the Chinese Box-office.
It has also resulted in filmmakers being sensitive to Chinese restrictions such as talk about Taiwan, glorifying Tibet or the Dalai Lama or criticising the communist party.
In the last few years, Chinese investors have brought a few big studios, and have been pushing Hollywood to comply with the Chinese demands. In fact, we already have a dozen movies which have changed script or storyline to stay off the radar of the Chinese censors.
So, while a few decades ago the American learnt from the Chinese filmmakers, now they get to work more closely with them to ensure the movie lands in the mainland. We wish to see a few more Wong Fei-hung movies soon.