Fang rebounds with massage parlor comedy


PUSAN, South Korea -- Chinese producer Fang Li is rebounding from his notorious last project, "Summer Palace" -- which got its director banned in China -- with "Apple," a dark comedy about tensions in a massage parlor, Chengtian Entertainment said on Monday.

With a $3 million budget backed by a cash infusion from Japan, Fang and executive producer Wu Kebo are producing mainland Chinese female director Li Yu's second film, Chengtian director of corporate communcations Yi Jianmei said in an interview at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival.

With "Apple," Beijing-based producer Fang moves on from the recent brush with China's sensitive film bureau that caused him to strip his name from director Lou Ye's "Summer Palace."

"Summer Palace," showing here at Pusan, alludes to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. When it went to Cannes without Beijing's approval it drew director Lou and co-producer Nai An both a five-year ban from filmmaking by China's film regulators (HR 9/5).

Fang's new project, "Apple," tells the story of the complex relationship between a Beijinger massage parlor boss, played by Hong Kong star Tony Leung, and his employee/masseuse Apple Liu, played by mainland starlet Fan Bingbing.

"Apple" began shooting in a Beiing massage parlor on September 27 and will finish in mid-November, Yi said.

"We hope we will find buyers for this dark comedy here in Pusan, beginning with Avex in Japan," Yi said.

In early September, Avex Group Holdings, the Japanese music company with a growing interest in film (it co-produced the 2005 Hong Kong hit action hit "Initial D'), took a 20% stake in Beijing-based Chengtian Entertainment, company documents posted to the Web show, an investment reportedly worth $36 million.