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Six degrees

Olivia Rosenman

 

Feng Xiaogang, the Beijing-born filmmaker, has just had his latest release, Back to 1942, selected as China’s entry in the best foreign language film category for next year’s Oscars. The film tells the story of a famine in Henan province during the Japanese occupation and was described by The New York Times as “unrelentingly grim”. Though best known for his work as a director, Feng also had an acting role in Jiang Wen’s 2010 classic, Let the Bullets Fly, which starred Chow Yun-fat …

 

The Hong Kong actor, who played a village mobster in 1920s Sichuan province in Jiang’s film, was born on Lamma Island and left school at the age of 17, taking a job as a bellboy to support his family. Lugging bags around Tsim Sha Tsui’s then-dingy Miramar Hotel gave him insight into the underworld of Hong Kong’s triads, which he no doubt channelled in his later roles in “heroic bloodshed” films. In 2008, Chow released a book of photographs that he had taken on the sets of his films, with the proceeds going to victims of the Sichuan earth quake. The book was published by fashion house Louis Vuitton …

 

The label was founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton. The French designer and entrepreneur was also born into a working-class family – but he did not share Chow’s filial piety. Leaving home aged 14, he walked the more than 400 kilometres from his hometown of Anchay to Paris. When he arrived in the French capital (two years after he had set out), he was taken on as an apprentice trunkmaker. Rising to the top of his industry, in 1852 he was appointed to serve France’s first family, by Eugenie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III …

 

France’s first titular president and, later, its last monarch, Louis- Napoleon Bonaparte ruled the country for 22 years. His energetic foreign policy rivalled that of his uncle, Napoleon I, whose own military adventures found echoes – in the eyes of many commentators – two centuries later in British prime minister Tony Blair’s readiness to disregard neighbouring powers and invade countries. A smirking “Boney” Blair was ridiculed in a film by the then-opposition Conservative Party in 2005, with the aid of Take That Look Off Your Face, a song penned by musical theatre composer and impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber …

 

London-born Lloyd Webber was educated at the city’s prestigious Royal College of Music in the mid-1960s. His Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Evita have all had runs at theatres on New York’s Broadway and in London’s West End that lasted for more than 10 years. Less well-known is Try it and See, a song he wrote with a long-term collaborator, lyricist Tim Rice, for the Eurovision song contest of 1969. On his 36th birthday, Lloyd Webber married singer and dancer Sarah Brightman …

 

Brightman made the big time with British dance troupe Hot Gossip in the late-1970s. She met Lloyd Webber on the set of Cats and they were married three years later. An infatuated Lloyd Webber cast her in the lead role for the West End debut of The Phantom of the Opera. They divorced in 1990 and Brightman embarked on a solo career, which has seen her perform with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau. She has performed at two Olympics opening ceremonies, including that for the Beijing Games in 2008. This year she returned to the city to perform at the Beijing International Film Festival awards ceremony, in which the prize for best film went to Back to 1942, directed by Feng Xiaogang.

 

 

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