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Action, cut, and cut again

By  Yang Jinghao (Global Times)

09:23, September 20, 2012

A scene from White Deer Plain. The movie was screened on September 15 after several delays. Insiders speculate that the delay was due to sexual scenes in the film. (file photo)

The protagonist of director Lou Ye's latest film murders a garbage collector. But when the film board told him that the death, which he envisioned as a brutal killing, had to be limited to two sharp blows, Lou was furious.

"It's ridiculous to keep only two hits, which would make the audience think that he is an experienced killer," said Lou. "This seemingly minor change can alter the meaning of the whole movie and lead to a completely negative portrayal."

Just 41 days prior to the domestic premiere of Mystery, his first production since a five-year ban issued by the nation's top film regulator following his 2006 film Summer Palace, Lou faces another censorship that he sees as unacceptable.

The 47-year-old Chinese film director told the Global Times that the film went through all censorship steps and was granted screening permit from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) before competing at the Festival de Cannes in May.

Besides the order to reduce the violence, a sex scene was shortened.

Lou said the sudden blow would impact the whole production of the movie and bring great losses.

On September 7, he announced on Sina Weibo that he would disclose all censorship information on the platform. This "bold resistance" soon drew extensive attention, pushing the stern system at the center of debate.

According to his Weibo updates, the attitude of SARFT kept changing, and didn't match what he was told by the Beijing film authority, which was in charge of preliminary censoring.

An anonymous employee with SARFT's film department told the Global Times on Monday that the shooting was approved as a domestic film before it was revealed to have been a French co-production.

Lou said that the application for a co-production was also signed off on by SARFT, blaming the top film regulator for going back on its own decision.

With negotiations in a deadlock, whether Mystery will be released remains a mystery. The censorship standards have been puzzling most directors. Even today, whether potential improvements can be expected is still considered with mixed feelings.

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