A scene from Feng Xiaogang's Back to 1942. (Internet photo)
Chinese director Feng Xiaogang is being accused of sour grapes after lashing out at audiences for favoring Ang Lee's Life of Pi over his latest period film, Back to 1942, reports our Chinese-language sister paper China Times.
"Everyone is desperately suppressing this (Back to 1942) and desperately trumpeting that (Life of Pi)," the 54-year-old Feng is quoted as saying. "If you think I have offended you, don't watch this movie. If you watch it you are 'dirtying my film'."
Feng's remarks have sparked a furious reaction online, with many Chinese netizens claiming that they will now boycott Back to 1942 in response.
Life of Pi, based on the award-winning novel by Yann Martel and directed by Taiwan-born Oscar winner Ang Lee, has continued to dominate the Chinese box office. Strong word of mouth enabled the fantasy drama to set a new single-day record by taking in 9.68 million yuan (US$1.55 million) on Dec. 8, 17 days after the film was first released in the country.
On the other hand, Back to 1942, about a major famine that struck central China's Henan province during World War II, has not fared nearly as well, taking in around 5 million yuan (US$800,000) on the same day Life of Pi set the record, notwithstanding the fact that the Chinese film was released a week later.
The difference in box office receipts may have been more pronounced had Life of Pi not handed over all IMAX theaters to Back to 1942 only a week after the former commenced screening. In response to the move, likely as a measure of support for domestic films, Lee said he believed it was fair as each film received a week of IMAX screenings, adding that he did not question the business decision.
Back to 1942, which won two awards at the Rome Film Festival last month, has received poor word of mouth since its release, with netizens comparing the film unfavorably to Life of Pi and criticizing it for "exaggerating the evil side of Chinese people."
Feng Xiaogang 馮小剛
Ang Lee 李安