Hollywood to China; It’s epic.

Hollywood, China and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy
By Erich Schwartzel

When Jiang Zemin watched “Titanic”, he was extremely impressed. Is it the politics of the movie? The scuffle between the marginalized proletariat below deck and the parasites above? To be sure, James Cameron’s blockbuster demonstrated a rudimentary class consciousness, the kind of which a Communist leader might be expected to unequivocally note and endorse. But that is not what makes the president of the People’s Republic of China particularly admired. No – Jiang, reports Erich Schwartzel in “Red Carpet,” blown away by the film’s “emotional appeal”: Leo and Kate, Celine Dion’s sad-like voice, artistic technique by Celine Dion. feeling. “I invite my Politburo comrades to the movies,” he said at the next National People’s Congress. “Let us never think that we are the only ones who know how to convince people.”

Convince people to do what, is the question. To buy movie tickets and related merchandise? To fit in an authoritarian state? Both? “In fact, there is no such thing as art for the sake of art,” Mao Zedong said in a lecture in Yan’an in 1942. On this point, he and capitalism completely agree: You always selling something, be it a revolution or a pair of sneakers. “Red Carpet” is the story of a connection that formed when Hollywood realized it needed Chinese cash, and China realized they could first manipulate – and then match – special gifts. Hollywood’s distinction for fascination, coercion, lifestyle control, and bringing audiences to tears by means of a bulging orchestra and Tom Hanks speaking earnestly to little children. Or, for that matter, an 18th-century Mel Gibson always bursting with a love of freedom: When Sony executives sent prints of “The Patriot” to censors in Beijing, in the hopes of was released, they were told that approval had been denied. – but can Chinese officials keep the print? “We wanted other people in the office to see it so they could understand how to make a good propaganda film.”

Two stories, the fall of Hollywood and the explosion of Chinese soft power, revolve and combine in Schwartzel’s cleverly organized book. Hollywood crashed, among other things, prestige television and the collapse of the DVD market. (In 2003, on the day of its release, Disney sold eight million copies of “Finding Nemo” DVD; by 2008, Disney’s DVD sales were down 33%, more than half of the studio’s operating income.) office decline, China – opening slowly and suspiciously to Western influences – becomes the new frontier: a wonderful lake of virgin film imagination, a vast untapped resource. exploit.

But China is not a democracy, and its economic leverage over Hollywood allows its leaders to subject American films to an unprecedented process of ideological filtering. In films approved by China’s censors, you’ll find no mention of the afterlife, no time travel, and no masturbation. (There’s a great joke somewhere.) “The underling stories”—the little guy who took over the system—was a problem. Hollywood stars visiting the ad must follow the rules (no mention of Tibet or Taiwan) and negative images of China will be removed. “Red Carpet” details the untying of a clothesline in a Shanghai street scene from “Mission: Impossible III”(drying underwear too backwards); the rewrite of “World War Z” to make it clear that the zombie apocalypse virus has Not actually originated, as previously thought, in China; the cutting of a scene from the movie “Skyfall”, in which James Bond stalks a Chinese security officer (making the Chinese look weak); and – most spectacularly – in the remake of “Red Dawn,” the post-production pixel-by-pixel transformation of the entire invading Chinese army into an army from North Korea. (“The flags are a nightmare in their own right,” a weary special effects wizard told Schwartzel, “and then all these dark nights.”)

In addition to the things that were taken out of American movies by order of China, there were also things that were brought in in, generally by American manufacturers eager to please. “A Chinese city, actress or energy drink,” writes Schwartzel, “which producers call the ‘Chinese element’, has become the selling point for a film. “Sometimes the Chinese film bureau will make a suggestion: Instead of mighty American jets rushing in to save Hong Kong from giant robots in the climactic scenes of ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ , what – oh, I don’t know – what about the hero China’s Jet? Guaranteed, the studio said, for Chinese cooperation is “an economic no-brainer”.

At the same time, in Chinese movies, Americans are getting worse and worse. Schwartzel writes: “While Hollywood studios dismiss their Chinese villain films, ‘Chinese filmmakers have not extended such courtesy’.” He shows off a 2017 blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2” in which Chinese hero Leng rescues African villagers from a disgusting, sassy, ​​extremist American mercenary named Big Daddy, brilliantly played by Frank Grillo. “People like you will always be inferior to people like me,” grumbled Big Daddy, locked in a bloody fight with Leng and thrust a blade toward his throat. “It’s history,” Leng said, Monday before he turned around and stabbed Big Daddy in the neck. “In the ending of the film,” Schwartzel wrote, “played when some tickets were sold out or bursts of applause – a statement appeared: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China, upon meeting dangerous in foreign country, don’t give direction up! Please remember, behind you is a strong motherland! ‘”

This is a fascinating book. It will educate you. Schwartzel did some special reporting and a lot of work. He talks to Disney executives and is forced to use Chinese farmers again; he talked to Michael Gralapp, an American actor who had had success playing Winston Churchill in Chinese films, until he suddenly found himself playing the role of Warren Buffett. He came to the village of Masai in Suswa, Kenya, at the conclusion of a talk on China’s historic Belt and Road initiative, a “set of infrastructure loans and transactions by China” China aims to redraw the map of global trade.” China is building a train station in Suswa as part of a major project to connect the city of Mombasa, on the coast, with inland Kenya. It has also delivered StarTimes satellite dishes to some villagers, and is providing other entertainment, 24-hour kung fu and Chinese game shows. All seasons of the same “campaign for African opinion” brought you “Wolf Warrior 2”

In the ’80s, in what Schwartzel called the “rah-rah era” of American cinema – “The Right Stuff”, “Back to the Future”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Top Gun” – mainly the Introverted Chinese consume rather rigid propaganda of their own. “Superman”, starring Christopher Reeve, was released shortly after its debut in the US eight years, but was condemned on the grounds that Superman himself was “a drug that the capitalist themselves to eliminate serious crises.” It seems likely that the emergence of a state-administered political drug has not or has not occurred to China’s leadership. “Red Carpet” is about what happens next.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/books/review/red-carpet-erich-schwartzel.html Hollywood to China; It’s epic.

Fry Electronics Team

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