Magazine article Screen International


Magazine article Screen International


Article excerpt

Chinese director Wuershan talks about martial arts comedy, The Butcher, The Chef And The Swordsman, which is the second Chinese-language project from Fox International Productions.

Born in Inner Mongolia, Wuershan worked as a visual artist and TV commercials director before making The Butcher, The Chef And The Swordsman, the first project to emerge from Beijing-based First Cut Features, founded by Daniel Yu and Tang Xiru.

The $1.5m film follows a mystical blade as it passes through the hands of three ambitious men. The ensemble cast includes Chinese actress Kitty Zhang and Japan's Masanobu Ando along with lesser known TV and theatre actors.

Fox International Productions (FIP) joined the film as co-producer when it was in post-production and brought on board US filmmaker Doug Liman (Fair Game) to executive produce and help promote it. "The film is entirely [Wuershan's] own style - there's nothing derivative about it and even though it's his first film, he's approaching it with an enormous amount of confidence," says Liman.

The film recently screened at the Toronto and Pusan film festivals and will be released in China on Nov 25.

Where did you get the idea for the story?

It's loosely based on a short story, Legend Of The Kitchen Knife, from a monthly magazine - the kind of publication I used to read when I was in middle school and you can buy in newspaper kiosks at train stations. But the story of the film is very different from the short story - probably 70% has been changed. I put together a team of three writers and we worked together for two years and did 12 drafts.

It's unusual for Chinese films to spend so much time in development - why did it take so long to write?

Because it was a very complicated process. We started with a theme known in Buddhism as "the three poisons" or three human vices - desire, vengeance and greed - which are associated with three animals - pig, snake and rooster. Then from this theme we had to create a structure to tell the story and fill in all the plot elements with the three writers. One writer was specialised in writing martial arts novels, another specialised in comedy lines and another organised all the materials and consolidated them.

Kitty Zhang is a big star for a low-budget production - how did you get her in your first film? …

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