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Fake vs Frank opinion

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-29 07:35

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When showbiz celebrities junk media-speak for a spontaneous burst of plain talk, controversies ensue. But it is better they hold personal beliefs that offend than fake a semblance of propriety that pleases.

Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang is known for his uncompromising remarks as well as for his top-grossing movies. Whenever he appears at the annual Shanghai International Film Festival, some newspapers reserve headline space for him, knowing full well that he will "fire at some person or object" and create shock waves throughout the industry or even beyond it.

In 2010, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein excused himself after making a brief statement at one of the festival's popular forums, saying he had to catch a flight, and Feng followed up by saying Weinstein was "an outright fraudster".

The press later checked Weinstein's itinerary and found him shopping in Shanghai later that day rather than rushing to the airport. Of course, Feng was not aware of that; he was referring to Weinstein's handling of Chinese films in the North American market. The co-founder of Miramax Films and co-chairman of The Weinstein Company countered in a subsequent statement that Feng's film, The Banquet, which he distributed in the United States, was among the most profitable of the Chinese director's movies in that market.

In Hollywood, Weinstein is considered to be brash, but compared with Feng he is almost a diplomat. I've heard him in interviews refusing to bad-mouth his Hollywood peers, I mean those who had rubbed him the wrong way or those whose guts he hated. It seems an industry practice that one should not do this kind of thing openly.

So, what is your assessment of Feng and his behavior? Is he a loose cannon whose childish recklessness will eventually undo his career, or is he a rare exception in a business where a facade of hypocrisy is to be meticulously maintained even though backstabbing is generally the norm? By attacking Weinstein at such a high-profile event, said some pundits, Feng had cut out the possibility of his movies ever finding their way into wide distribution across the Pacific.

Showbiz is not an industry whose practitioners can freely express themselves, at least not those in the big league. They have public personas from which they derive their livelihood. The public has a certain expectation of them, which is usually determined during the molding phase of a career. Feng started out as witty but non-confrontational, a positioning shaped by his early comedies. But as revealed in his two memoirs, he kept his head low and his works inoffensive so that they would have an easier time with both censors and audiences.

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