Mixed reactions for Asian films at Cannes

Asia's film industry is heading home to reflect on its mixed fortunes at this year's Cannes Film Festival after a 65th edition of the event that was light on productions from the region but still saw a heavy Asian presence heading to the French seaside city.

Only three Asian productions made it into the field of 22 films that competed for Cannes's major prize this year and to say that reactions to them were varied would be putting things mildy.

Early reviews of the Im Sang-soo-directed The Taste of Money -- which had its official in-competition screening on Saturday, the festival's penultimate night -- were mainly positive, and the film had already opened back in South Korea to promising box office results. But the other two films representing the region failed to impress those in the know.

An "unlikely get-together of French arthouse queen and cult Korean auteur yields laughs amid formal tricksiness," was how The Hollywood Reporter reacted to South Korean director Hong Sang-soo's In Another Country, which stars France's Isabelle Huppert, while the effort from Iranian veteran Abbas Kiarostami -- the Japan-based Like Someone In Love -- left many simply scratching their heads.

Kiarostami had "saved his reputation as an abstruse, impenetrable arthouse director," said Screen Daily, with the film "greeted with a mix of bafflement and boos."

There was scant praise too for China's only flag-waver - the Lou Ye-directed Mystery, which screened as part of the sideline Un Certain Regard program. The Hollywood Reporter labeled it a "blandly-titled, rain-soaked romantic melodrama."

But for Asia things in France weren't all doom and gloom -- especially not when it came to creating a little hype and doing a little business.

Jackie Chan was in town hinting that his days of mad-cap action may soon be coming to an end as he hosted a party for his latest production, Chinese Zodiac. According to Film Business Asia, the film is set for a December release in China, first, and the production that it will go up against then -- the Jay Sun-directed actioner Switch -- was also the beneficiary of a party thrown in an attempt to drum up as much excitement as possible.

Chinese films were in abundance at the market side of Cannes and film industry watchers reported brisk sales throughout the festival

Among the productions picked up for international release were the Soi Cheang-directed Motorway, which has been produced by Hong Kong's action master Johnnie To. To's own Blind Detective was also a hot item, according to Film Business Asia, as buyers from other Asian markets in particular looked to cash in on the presence of box office favorites Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng.

There was a buzz building around the Andrew Lau-directed The Guillotines, too. Lau made his name with the Infernal Affairs series of Hong Kong thrillers that eventually morphed into the Oscar-winning The Departed.

And South Korea's CJ Entertainment hit factory was here, there and everywhere promoting the deal it has done with the US director Brett Ratner to develop a series of films featuring "a British puzzle expert, a Chinese police officer and a mysterious Chinese female pirate on the hunt for China's hidden treasures."

The franchise is being put together under the title of The Golden Age and the first film in the franchise is expected to start shooting later this year.

MS

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