(in alphabetical order)
A Chinese Fairy Tale
Yan Chixia (Louis Koo) is a demon hunter who wants to kill as many ghosts as possible in order to be the best in this field. That is, until he falls in love with a female ghost, Xiaoqian (Liu Yifei). Unable to balance between his dream and his lover, he chooses to leave his profession. Years later, a young scholar, Ning Caichen (Yu Shaoqun), encounters Xiaoqian in an ancient temple, and they develop a relationship. However, there is a scheme behind this romance, and nobody can escape from it.
A Chinese Fairy Tale is an adaptation film from a Chinese story from Strange Stories from A Chinese Studio, a collection of Chinese supernatural stories. The film is also a remake film of a 1987 film of the same title, starring by Leslie Cheung, directed by Tsui Hark. The film is completely different from is predecessors, only retaining the characters and the general plotlines. While it can't match the remarkable as the 1987 version, the film uses different methods to create a distinct story, such as adding more romantic plots for Yan Chixia, and making Xiaoqian not as manipulative as the original character. --Yao Cheng
Dear Enemy (dir: Xu Jinglei)
Imagine finding out your ex-boyfriend works for your rival company. In Dear Enemy, Emmy nd Derek encounter each other six months after their breakup, and they now work for competing investment banking firms. The former lovers thus become competitors in the financial world; however, after a series of battles, the two people gradually find themselves drawn to each other.
Director-actress Xu Jinglei and Stanley Huang reunite as onscreen lovers after the success of last year's box office hit, Go Lala Go. Xu showcases a distinct view of modern China: in her works, China is a highly developed, fast-paced, capitalist country with modern offices, luxurious homes, and fashionable clothing, and people's leisurely activities include going out to night clubs, traveling, and other thrills of sophisticated professionals. --Yao Cheng
The Flowers of War (dir: Zhang Yimou)
Adapted from Yan Geling's novel 13 Women of Nanking, Zhang Yimou's new historical war film The Flowers of War is set during the Nanking Massacre at the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film tells a story of Nanking courtesans' who hide themselves in a wine cellar of a church to escape the massacre. However, after being forced attend the celebration of the Japanese army in Nanking, the courtesans decide to pose as choir girls and assassinate the Japanese soldiers.
The story of Second Sino-Japanese War is already a clichéd topic in film. Zhang Yimou took a big risk making this film. However, the perspective of the war from a girl's eyes, the participation of a foreigner, and the merge of religious beliefs and salvation values make this one of the best films the year. Starring Christian Bale and college student Ni Ni, it is interesting to see how the Academy Award-nominee cooperates with an acting student. Produced by several international production teams, the film, budgeted at $94 million, is the most expensive Chinese film to be made so far, an investment that shows in the film's visual effects. Flowers of War has already been nominated for the 69th Golden Globe Awards. --Yao Cheng
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D (dir: Tsui Hark)
Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's new film -- a sequel to 1996's Dragon Gate Inn and 1997's New Dragon Gate Inn, is being touted as the first martial arts 3D film in China. The film is set in the Ming Dynasty, telling a treasure-trove story in Longmen, a site in Western China. To begin the story, the swordsman Zhao Huai'an (Jet Li) commits a series of assassinations of high officials, and the new head of the department, Tian Huayu, is out to kill Zhao. Flying Swords of Dragon Gate boasts killer performances by top Chinese stars including Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Christ Lee and Chen Kun. Tsui Hark has taken a big step forward in 3D film with this work, with the strong action scenes in the movie. The merge of film genres is another strength: Hark effortlessly blends action, the road movie, and romantic drama, with a story full of delicate hints and surprising turning points.--Yao Cheng
Let the Bullets Fly
Let the Bullets Fly represents a rare case in Chinese film industry, where a film can be both hugely popular with the critics and widely successful at the box office. Written and directed by Jiang Wen, the film is set in 1920 Sichuan when the bandit Zhang (Jiang Wen) descends upon a town posing as its new mayor. The film now is the highest grossing domestic film in China's cinematic history, making 660 million Yuan (approx. US$105 million) at the Chinese box office. The film also won wide critical acclaim, receiving six nominations at the Asian Film Awards 2011, as well as nine nominations plus two wins at the Golden Horse Awards 2011. This briskly-paced "Oriental Western" is filled with witty dialogue, ironic black humor, and incredible performances by its leading and supporting actors. Creating just the correct amount of tension and ease between the three main characters who are tied together by pecuniary benefits, Jiang Wen, Chow Yun-fat and Ge You delivered one of the finest performances in their long acting careers. --Claudia Xie
Love for Life
Love for Life (formerly known as Life is Miracle) explores a controversial yet rather under-explored issue -- AIDS in China. Directed by Gu Changwei, the film is set in a Chinese village where the HIV virus is spreading fast due to illegal blood sales. The story revolves around a HIV-infected couple, played by Aaron Kwok and Zhang Ziyi, who eventually join together because of their shared misfortune. Due to the sensitivity of this issue, the final theatrical release was 50 minutes shorter than the original cut, which might have made the film slightly disjointed at times. However, the film features outstanding performances by its entire cast, highlighted by Aaron Kwok who plays the main HIV-infected young male, Pu Cunxing plays the illegal blood trafficker, and Jiang Wenli plays an ordinary villager suspected of stealing rice from other patients. Calling attention to a rather invisible group in China, the film is painfully optimistic, as the director places romance next to desperation, and love next to death. --Claudia Xie
Love Is Not Blind (dir: Huatao Teng)
Adapted from a story published on a popular online blog by Bao Jingjing, Love is Not Blind is about how a lovelorn girl recovers from a broken relationship. The story starts with a girl, Huang Xiaoxian, who discovers a secret relationship between her fiancé and her best friend. One of her friends, Wang Yiyang, begins to take care of her and tries to help her recover from her lost love. After 33 days, Huang finally gets back on her feet.
Produced with a modest budget of 9 million RMB (US$ million), Love Is Not Blind was the biggest box office surprise of the year, earning over 300 million RMB (US$ million) and making the movie the most profitable film of 2011. The cast is made up of popular television drama actors and actresses, including Wen Zhang, Li Chen, Yao Di, Hai Qing, which may have contributed to the film's intrigue, but it was the natural performances and the brilliant script that made the film a bonefide success. --Yao Cheng
Shu (whose name means "tree" in Chinese) loses his job after his eyes are injured while working. Back to town, he realizes that everyone ignores him and looks at him with disdain, as if he is a tree standing there without anyone's attention. He tries to make himself feel more important but fails every time. Meanwhile, he encounters a mute girl and marries her, which unfortunately doesn't change his luck for the better. However, Shu finds that he has a special talent: he can predict the future. The art film director Han Jie has created the character of Mr. Tree as a representation of idealism against harsh reality. The film boasts a large amount of expressive shots, using monochromatic backgrounds to affect emotions and using memorable montages to show dreams and imagination. --Yao Cheng
My Own Swordsman (dir: Shang Jing)
In a small town in Western China, there is a hotel named Tong Fu Inn. The owner of the Inn is a woman, Tong Xiangyu, living a happy and peaceful life with her employees. However, two things threaten the inn: the sharp increase in the price of real estate, and the return of an old enemy who wants to kill Tong and her husband, Bai. Adapted from the television drama of the same name, My Own Swordsman continues in the style of the original: that is, it focuses on hot societal issues in Chinese society. The film not only tackles the increasing real estate prices in China and people's anxiety and fears of not being able afford the housing, but it does it in a comedic way, with acerbic, funny dialogue. The film also extends the story of the television drama: Tong's employees, Guo and Lv, get married in the movie. --Yao Cheng
The Piano In A Factory (dir: Zhang Meng)
A divorced father, Zhang Guilin cannot afford a piano for his daughter. Therefore, he has to give up his legal guardianship because her rich mother can give her a better life. After asking for help from several friends, he decides to make an iron piano for her daughter. One of the best art films of 2011, The Piano In A Factory achieves every criteria of good filmmaking, especially in the storytelling and cinematography categories. The film is very nostalgic, as well, reminding people of '90s China. Although the film won several international awards as well as receiving acclaim from critics, The Piano In A Factory didn't fare well in the box office, suggesting that Chinese art film market still needs more development. --Yao Cheng