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Too much show, not enough tell

(Global Times)

10:18, May 24, 2013

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing arrives on the red carpet for the opening ceremony of the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 15, 2013. The festival runs from May 15 to 26. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)

Three of China's most precious film star beauties have taken to the 66th Cannes Film Festival since one of the biggest film events of the year drew its curtains more than a week ago. But, Fan Bingbing, Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Yuqi have already been marked by critics, who condemned their ostentatious appearances on the red carpet as harmful to developing the reputations of Chinese stars internationally.

Three pretty faces

The new spokeswoman for Louis Vuitton, actress Fan Bingbing strutted down the red carpet in a Louis Vuitton rosy silk strapless, a trailing gown topped with enough glitter to match her lashes. She paired the outfit with a Minaudière evening bag. With her hair down in simple waves at the bottom, she appeared poised and elegant, yet she was seen by some as paling in comparison to previous modes of dress adopted at other film festivals, where she flaunted events in Chinese-style dress.

"This time, Bingbing's style falls into more of a stereotypical look," stylist Dong Maochen, who also contributes columns to fashion magazines Gazar and Elle, told the Global Times.

Surprising the public with her new hairstyle, Zhang Ziyi traded in her longer chops for a short-do with a shiny, wavy fringe.

But the look was an embarrassingly sloppy mess for the actress, who won international popularity long ago with her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, said fashion guru Gogoboi, commenting on popular Chinese website and suggesting that her hair style "went unfinished by the hairdresser."

Chinese critics had more praise for Chinese star Zhang Yuqi's glamorous appeal on the red carpet, giving her a thumbs-up for the summer sexy Ulyana Sergeenko emerald green dress chosen from the brand's 2013 Spring and Summer haute couture series.

Worn with playful, scarlet red lipstick, the look won her runner-up for best dressed on the first day of Cannes by some foreign media, which said that she was upstaged only by Nicole Kidman.

For the Chinese, it was just the opposite. The gown's plunging neckline that drew much attention to Zhang Yuqi's curves was a poorly conceived choice, said Gogoboi, who likened her appearance to that of a "plump, green onion."

Chinese media, too, weren't in favor of the deep cut of the V-shaped neckline, saying it definitely gave off the wrong impression - one that says sex sells, and a little too loudly.

"It's not suitable to the Asian aesthetic standard," image consultant Yan Xi told the Global Times. "Maybe that kind of revealing dress is expected for Western stars, but for Chinese women, it's too scheming."

Making headlines by showing more skin was neither a decent or honorable thing to do, added Yan.

Less is more

Stylist Dong said that many young Chinese female stars struggle with the dilemma of going all out, or staying true to more humble Chinese customs, particularly when attending international events, where the best thing to do for their career is to show themselves off as a sexy, edgy star.

"But, it's not a good phenomenon," said Dong. "It's not praiseworthy if someone is trying too hard to be 'eye-catching.' The way in which a dress, its design and garments, too, portray character is far more important."

Western stars like Julianne Moore and Carey Mulligan have mastered this concept, said Gogoboi, who described Mulligan in Dior as having "defeated rivals with the power of extreme simple."

Tailored for Mulligan's body to a tee, it was the simplicity of the dress smartly paired with fresh, relaxed makeup that won Gogoboi over.

"If you were to cry over the beauty of any of the stars, then would have immediately burst in to tears when looking at her," said Gogoboi.

But Fan Xun Gu Lu, founder of website Fashionguru, was more understanding of Zhang Yuqi's clear departure from a more traditional form of dress, remarking that Chinese celebrities who don't enjoy the same level of international stardom as their Western peers are in no stage of their career to do away with the subtleties seen in Chinese customs.

Fan Xun Gu Lu was also sympathetic, pointing out that while Zhang Yuqi's presence got her noticed on the red carpet, media covered of her in foreign countries was limited. He added that foreign reporters must have been a bit confused.

"None of them even had a film in the festival," said Fan Xun Gu Lu. "They must have been wondering who they were and why they were there. Especially with Zhang Yuqi - she only came for 'soy sauce' (a slang Chinese term referring to passersby)."

In other words, she was attending an event that she "had nothing to do with - Zhang Yuqi isn't even a spokeswoman for any of the sponsors," said Fan Xun Gu Lu.

Looking at their predecessors, Chinese celebrity superpowers Gong Li and Maggie Cheung, both widely respected for their tasteful and classic appearances on the red carpet, the young Chinese stars at Cannes have some work ahead yet, if they are to emulate the successes of Gong and Cheung, he said.

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