'Lost in Beijing' finds compromise with censors

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BEIJING -- Hoping to avoid the controversy that embroiled "Summer Palace" at May's Festival de Cannes, the producer of Berlin-bound "Lost in Beijing" said Friday that he has struck a compromise with Beijing's censors.

After seven days spent re-editing the adult drama "Lost in Beijing," producer Fang Li said that he and director Li Yu have agreed on 65% of the cuts requested by China's Film Bureau.

"We have good communication with the Film Bureau this time," Fang said, speaking via phone from his San Francisco home.

In May, Fang drew the censors' heat and worldwide media attention by taking "Summer Palace" to the Cannes festival without Beijing's approval, resulting in the blacklisting of director Lou Ye in China.

Fang said that he and Li, one of China's few rising female directors, resubmitted "Lost" for its final content review Friday.

"Lost" tells the story of a sexually charged relationship between a Beijing massage parlor boss, played by Hong Kong star Tony Leung, and his employee, played by mainland starlet Fan Bingbing.

Some of the 15 cuts requested by Beijing's censors could affect the structure of "Lost" -- called "Pinguo" (Apple) in Chinese, after Fan's character -- and change its characters' development and the meaning of certain scenes, Fang said.

"Previously, a film like this would have had no room to negotiate, but this time both sides are making great compromises," Fang said.

When reached by telephone in Beijing, Li, who is known on the international festival circuit for her "Fish and Elephant" and "Dam Street," said she was too exhausted to talk about "Lost."

The censors will reach their decision about "Lost" within two days, said an official in the international department of the Film Bureau at the State Administration of Radio Film and Television.

"If it's approved for screening here, then it will have no problem going to international festivals," a SARFT official said.

If the content of "Lost" is approved, Fang said the team at his Beijing-based production company Laurel Films will rush to finish post-production and resubmit the film to SARFT for technical approval. Only then would it be ready to go to Berlin without the risk of a ban, he said.

During his clash with the Film Bureau over "Summer Palace," censors told Fang that Lou Ye's film depicting the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was "technically flawed."

Censors did not mention the film's politically taboo content -- or its numerous sex scenes -- when they rejected it and banned Lou from making movies on the mainland for five years.

Fang said he needs SARFT's approval by Feb. 10 if "Lost" is to make its Feb. 16 Berlin premiere.

Approval could vindicate Fang's vision for "Lost," he said.

Last fall, 10 days into shooting, Fang said he refunded $975,000 to the film's lead investor, Chengtian Entertainment, and asked the year-old company to leave the project over "artistic and personal differences."

Chengtian had been due to invest $1.95 million, 65% of the film's $3 million budget, Fang said. A spokeswoman from Beijing-based Chengtian declined to comment.

After borrowing more money, Fang became the lead investor in "Lost," he said, followed by Poly Bona -- the film division of the business arm of China's military.

Paris-based Films Distribution will handle international sales on "Lost."
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