'Beijing' bows to tepid reception


Berlin buyers were largely underwhelmed by Li Yu's "Lost in Beijing," which had its world premiere at the European Film Market on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the controversy surrounding the film, with Chinese government censors threatening to block the film from its Berlin Competition bow on Saturday unless Li makes major cuts, only a trickle of buyers emerged from the theater after the debut screening.

"The theater was packed to begin with but people kept getting up and leaving," said Alicia Montano, an acquisitions executive for Spain's Golem. "It was like a TV movie. A very, very long TV movie."

Saturday's screening was the first time sales agent Films Distribution has shown the 116-minute director's cut of the film. The Paris-based company says that whatever Beijing's censors decide, they will sell international buyers the uncut version of the movie.

But based on the initial reaction, it appears Beijing's censors are a lot easier to shock than international film executives.

"It's quite good," said one festival scout, who speculated that the only sequences the Chinese censors could object to would be the film's two sex scenes. "It wouldn't be shocking to a Western audience, absolutely not."

"I think it was a very accurate portrayal of what life is like in China today, but it isn't cutting edge," a Japanese buyer said. "There are underground directors in China now doing more controversial stuff."

"The film was good but I don't think it would work in Korea," a Korean distributor added. "It is very slow. It's a well-made film but commercially tough."