Taiwan embraces Concubine

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 December, 1993, 12:00am

THE award-winning Farewell to My Concubine has finally hit the screens in Taiwan after months of intense lobbying by producer Hsu Feng and Tomson Films.

The movie had been banned for violating the so-called ''one-half'' regulation - in this case, over half the key actors were from the mainland - but the Taiwanese Government finally figured out a way to grant special dispensation to this year's winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

On December 6, the Government Information Office, which regulated film production and distribution on the island, passed the new regulation. Two days later the film premiered.

''We were really nervous, of course,'' said Sunday Sun, Tomson Films' director of production. ''We made all these plans for the premiere, bringing in Chen Kaige and Leslie Cheung, but we didn't know until the last minute whether the movie could be shown or not.'' On December 10, the film was released to about 100 cinemas, with a few showing it around the clock. With all the publicity and the controversy surrounding this tale of two Peking opera stars, set against the backdrop of turbulent modern China, Taiwan audiences leaped at the chance to finally see it.

Box office receipts went through the roof, with the take on the first three days netting more than $6.1 million.

The new regulation permits the screening of any film which wins one of the ''top five film prizes'' in the world, meaning an Oscar or an award from one of the international film festivals in Berlin, Cannes, Venice and New York.

Wait a minute, the New York Film Festival? As some quickly pointed out, that festival is non-competitive. Although it is a coveted honour to be one of the films selected there annually, no prizes are given out.

But what is clearly a bureaucratic blunder gets a Government Information Office rationale: they are including it in case there are prizes given out in the future.

Meanwhile, Farewell to My Concubine has returned to Hong Kong screens and can be seen at the Columbia Classics cinema.