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Popular novelist Guo Jingming tries hand at big screen

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

08:45, June 26, 2013

Guo Jingming (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

Guo Jingming, one of China's most popular writers, has adapted his hit novel into a movie that according to insiders will stir debate on social issues such as materialism and the gap between rich and poor.

Guo, 30, is bringing the first book of Tiny Times, a three-volume novel depicting the life and love of four girls in Shanghai, onto the big screen.

The novel, the best-selling fiction of 2008, was criticized for its flamboyant language and obsession with materialism, but Guo is confident about the film's reception.

"Materialism is something we face every day now, and it is not dirty," he said. "Our film audiences are much younger than before. They live with materialism."

Film critic Ai Hui smells money in the film, which will premiere on Thursday.

"From the lavish production design and costumes, you can easily see that the film is spending a lot of money. It also talks about money, and this is the first time in my memory that a mainland film discusses materialism in such an audacious and direct way," he said.

"It will be a hot topic. Those who love and hate it will defend themselves fiercely."

Guo never shies from showing how rich he is. He posted photos on his blog of his house in central Shanghai with a terrace opposite the iconic landmark Plaza 66.

Netizens bombarded him with comments, some making jokes about his height — Guo is only 1.5 meters tall. His loss in a plagiarism case in 2006 made him a further target of sneering.

"The virtue of thrift has been respected for centuries in Chinese tradition, especially among intellectuals," said cultural critic Tan Fei.

"I am not surprised if the older generation feels offended by such a high-profile man so young and so rich, but the younger generation, especially those in their 20s and early 30s, have shown an obvious appreciation for Guo's courage and freedom to voice his aspirations."

Guo, now a successful businessman running a magazine and representing some popular young novelists, takes the controversy in stride.

"Controversy will do no harm to the film but will help its box office," he said.

Since late last year a number of domestic films have performed well at the box office, such as the road trip comedy Lost in Thailand and romantic comedy Finding Mr Right. Veteran theater manager Chen Zheng believes Tiny Times will be another of them.

"Guo Jingming's strong fan base and the controversy it stirs will bring about at least 500 million yuan ($81 million) at the local box office," he said. "But with the latest Superman movie Man of Steel and Andy Lau's Blind Detective competing in the same period, it might be difficult for it to reprise the glory of Lost in Thailand to earn more than 1 billion yuan."

Guo won the top prize at New Concept, the most established writing contest for teenage writers, when he was 18, and he started his writing career two years later. He has lived in Shanghai since he left a small town in Sichuan province in 2002, and he has been ranked among the five richest Chinese writers every year since 2007.

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