Floating Landscape

Today is the opening of the 60th edition of the Venice Festival. If you have followed the news, you have surely noticed that a Hong-Kong movie has been selected for the official competition, along with Takeshi Kitano and Tsai Ming-Liang’s latest films. This movie is Floating Landscape and it's quite probable that it could become one of the major films of the year.

Maan (Karena Lam) has recently lost her lover, Sam (Ekin Cheng), a painter who died tragically of an incurable disease. Before his death, he was remembering a beautiful landscape from the days when he was still a boy living in Qingdao in China. Maan goes to Qingdao to find this landscape. There, she meets Lit (Liu Ye), a postman who will help her to find that place. A relationship grows between Maan and Lit but she can’t forget the love she had for Sam.

Scriptwriter and director, Carol Lai Miu-Suet has written this simple story by putting all her feelings and heart in it and emphasizing the psychological and emotional power. That's a valuable choice as this kind of scriptwriting has already brought such masterpieces as Failan and Lost And Found. With already a very accomplished first movie (Glass Tears) in her hands, the making of this movie is just like a succession of good choices and events for her. Regarding the quality of her script, Carol Lai didn't have much difficulty to convince the much respected Stanley Kwan to handle the film production. The collaboration with Filmko was really a saving choice, regarding the ambitions of this young production company which is becoming more and more important everyday in the local film industry. To satisfy their own criteria of quality, Filmko is not afraid to put money on the table and the strategy of their company is representative of the current changes in the production methods in the HK movie industry. With Floating Landscape, they are among the first ones to have understood that international co-productions are the future of HK cinema. That’s why they worked with the Japanese studio NHK and the long-lasting Chinese studio Sil-Metropole (which produced Shaolin Temple with Jet Li). The project made his way and ended on the desk of Sylvain Burzsten, the boss of the French company Rosem Films. This French co-production brought some subsidies directly from the French government via the program called “Fonds Sud Cinema”. Finally, Floating Landscape has succeeded in collecting a very high budget for an HK drama which costs nearly 1,3 millions $US (something like 10 millions $HK, the equivalent of an good box-office hit at Hong-Kong nowadays). Hong-Kong is maybe in financial crisis but there are still people around who want to fight and achieve such projects without any commercial consideration.

The shooting lasted a very long time and the movie was one of the first HK-China collaborations (with the exception of Roots And Branches which was a pioneer in this domain), a logical tendency of a market which is growing month after month. But the differences of culture and way of working remain strong in a situation which can be easily defined by “one country, two systems”. This fact found its paroxysm when Liu Ye asked very seriously to Ekin Cheng if Young&Dangerous was his real life: it’s totally incredible but it shows well the differences between these two cultures. But whatever, Carol Lai has kept her project tightly until the end and had the chance to stop the production to wait for the Spring and the blossom of the trees just for the needs of her script: this idea of perfection and total control of the director on her own work is very unusual for an industry used to quick shootings and profits (in fact, there are a few personalities like Wong Kar-Waï who can have such power of decision and Carol Lai is probably one of his best pupils). Internationally boosted, Carol Lai will had the possibility to do the post-production of Floating Landscape in Paris with all the professional studios of mixing, editing, etc… One week after meeting her, Floating Landscape was selected for the official competition of the Venice festival: it speaks volumes for the potential of the movie and the director who already went to the director’s fortnight at Cannes in 2001. Also, during July 2003, a new Chinese decree appeared which allows the HK-China co-productions to obtain a wide release in China as they’ll be now considered as “Chinese movies”. For example, Heroic Duo had a release on 800 screens in China (it’s 10 times bigger than any release for a single movie in HK) and by looking at the growing popularity of Liu Ye and the co-production with Sil-Metropole, it just seems that Floating Landscape will obtain the same kind of release (and we can hope for an international distribution after its selection at Venice). It looks like a success-story or a modern fairy tales but it isn’t, that's quite simply the consequences of hard work on this project. Every film lovers can understand why this movie will be a big hit: a simple but strong script, a talented producer (Stanley Kwan), a promising director (Carol Lai), a big star searching for new challenges (Ekin Cheng), a young talented actress already multi-awarded (Karena Lam) and an internationally known actor (Liu Ye).

Stanley Kwan and Ekin Cheng are already very well-known, this is why we wanted to focus on the people who will become major stars in the following months due to their skills and hard work. We have interviewed them on their lives and careers, hoping it will encourage you to discover their new movies. For the moment, only a few people have seen Floating Landscape but when you ask Carol Lai about the quality of her movie and she answers with a disarming confidence and a knowing glance “you will see..”: then you instantly know that the movie is in good hands and its success is inevitable.

  • August 2003