|Peter Chan : I always discuss films in two aspects. One is a very personal level of a piece of work from a director. Some people call it art. It very much on a personal level of a creator making something that is close to his heart. A movie involved a large amount of money to be made, so you have to discuss it on a commercial level too. It is mostly what I discuss when I talk with people on interviews. Art cannot be discussed. It’s very personal and there is nothing to talk about really. So you discuss really about what you love and the industry and the market and the world.
Perhaps Love was an immensely personal project to me. The more I look at it and the more I realize it, even thought it’s my biggest budget for a Chinese movie that I ever directed. Except from The Warlords. So it seems that I was locked in a lot of commercial calculations, musical, dances, and cast, actors and stars.
The truth is that it’s in fact my most personal film in term of stories. It’s actually raw in its appeal. It is very hard to look at it and say “would I have done something better?” Because I resorted to a lot of very personal experiences that I normally wouldn’t have put in a movie. The reason is I was really having a hard time juggling between a personal story versus a very calculated package. And also the most important thing I had to deal with, the aspect of musical, which is not easy because it clashed with the kind of subtleties usually present in my movies. It clashes with the finer relationship or more macro magnification of all the details of falling in love or falling out of love and all that.
Zhou Xun in Perhaps Love
So it almost seemed like the fact it was a musical was a very commercial decision, it was an easy catching element, but in the same time it was something that I thought would elevate the emotion. When I was making it I was actually having a hard time trying to make those two coexist. So at the end, I resorted to some very personal touches that I really wouldn’t share. Those touches made the movie. At the day’s end, when I look at it I cannot be objective. I really have no regrets. It was really my most personal film, so when I looked at it I was actually very very surprised and pleased that I’ve actually done something like that.
So on a director’s level, on an artistic level and on a personal level I have no regret and no complaint at all. On a world’s packaging and on a marketing level, there are a lot of things that could have been done better.
I was thrilled and over the moon by this Newsweek piece of article by Bryan Walsh (1) about the fact that the film has finally broke out of the two “ghettos,” that is the two extremes of the Chinese molds, the 2 pigeonholes. One is art films and the other is kung fu movies. So this piece says this is the first Chinese film that actually could breaks out of those molds and we don’t need to be looked at as very peculiar Chinese people but interesting Chinese people because we are making a contemporary world story that anybody can relate to.
That was the goal of my life, but in retrospect when you look at the way the film was pushed and marketed, there were lot of places that normally a film like this couldn’t go. It has a wide released in Japan, a pretty good release in France but we still didn’t get any US domestic distribution. Even at a limited level.
We still didn’t get a lot of things that we should have got. Not because of the quality of the film, but simply because it’s Chinese and it’s not in the two ghettos. As much as Walsh has written about it we still haven’t broken out of these two ghettos. And now I am moving back into one of the ghetto [Ed.: with The Warlords, which as of now hasn’t got any release deal with a US distributor, despite being a Jet Li’s film]. If you look at the film, now I am a little bit wiser. I know how to tackle that game. Ok I am Chinese. Now what can you say? It is very secure and safe in one of these ghettos. If you look at the film, it has no kung fu in it whatsoever, Jet Li probably fought for a little bit in it, but he cried more in the film.