Director Feng Xiaogang attributes successful debut of new movie to negative reviews

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 10:10am

While institutional investors in Huayi Brothers Media found the studio's newly released comedy Personal Tailor appalling, China's filmgoers voted otherwise, as its buoyant box office figures showed.

Famed director Feng Xiaogang's latest hit grossed 80 million yuan (HK$102 million) on Thursday; the highest ever opening-day figure for a 2-D mainland movie.

Yet the success was unexpected for many, following the 3 billion yuan loss Huayi suffered after unimpressed fund managers dumped its stock in droves on Wednesday.

Returning from the film's private premiere on Tuesday night, fund managers said they were so dissapointed by what they saw that selling the "overpriced" stock would be the only sensible option. They acted accordingly on Wednesday, leaving both Huayi and individual investors reeling from the losses.

But on Friday, an exhilarated Feng Xiaogang thanked the unbelieving fund managers for "generating a curiosity" among Chinese viewers that drew them to the cinema.

"Criticism and compliments have both helped make the film a hot-rod topic," Feng revealed in an interview with the Chinese press.

Asked about the unflattering online opinions, Feng said "The film might not match certain expectations, but I don't believe these highly negative reviews have done it justice either."

Written by the novelist Wang Shuo, Personal Tailor describes the adventures of a group of actors who begin a start-up company to help ordinary people live out their fantasies. The movie is seen as a sequel to Feng's 1997 hit The Dream Factory, also written by Wang.

Critics writing on Douban, a popular online activity community, said the story was cliched and uninspiring. Some ranked it the "worst movie ever made by Feng Xiaogang." But the film was also given credit for taking satirical stabs at sensitive issues like corruption and pollution, according to a New York Times review. 

"We are bounded by censorship and taking baby steps at sarcasm," Feng said. "After all, we've started exploring new territory in the making of Chinese movies."

Read more China Insider stories by Amy Li