Friday, December 05, 2008

The many faces of Zhou Xun

SINGAPORE: The movie’s called All About Women, but really, it’s all about Zhou Xun.

After all, 2008 has been dubbed by regional Chinese media as “the Zhou Xun year”, what with the Tsui Hark-helmed movie, which opens Thursday, marking her third silver screen appearance this year, right after black tragic-comedy The Equation of Love and Death and the MediaCorp Raintree Pictures co-production Painted Skin.

The 32-year old actress from Zhejiang, China, first caught international attention in 2000’s Suzhou River, snagging the Best Actress award at the 15th Paris Film Festival.

She then set the precedence for her inclination towards playing diverse roles by impressing in the arthouse smash 2001 Beijing Bicycle, and continued to further stake her claim as one of China’s best film actresses with the critically-acclaimed Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress (2002), Perhaps Love (2005) and The Banquet (2006).

Flexing those acting chops once again, Zhou shines in All About Women, Tsui’s otherwise predictable screwball comedy inspired by the director’s own 1986 Peking Opera Blues. The actress takes the term “multi-personality disorder” to a whole new level with a rambunctious display of many disparate personalities.

With the attention of the international film world set on her, hungry to discover the next Zhang Ziyi or Gong Li, you’d think Zhou would be yearning to follow Hollywood’s call. You’d be wrong.

The doe-eyed waif, who was never formally trained in acting, takes a rather apathetic approach to the bright lights of Tinseltown. “Whether or not it’s Hollywood, the most important thing is the quality of the script,” Zhou said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2006.

Who can blame her? With an impressive 22 films and a slew of awards under her belt, the daughter of a movie projectionist father is living her dream on the silver screen. And now she’s got another dream: Girl wants to be a rock star.

In All About Women, your character Fan Fan seems like far cry from all your previous roles. What was that process like?

I was quite worried after taking on the project, thinking, ‘How do I pull off a comedy?’ almost every day. It was pretty frustrating for me during the first week of the shoot. But it was a good thing; I knew I was taking on a role I had never tried before.

It was quite nerve-racking at the beginning of the shoot. It wasn’t the pressure from the director, but my reaction towards acting in a comedy. I always thought I had a sense of humour... Finally, I get this chance to display my funny side! With Tsui Hark’s experience and proper directions, I’ve become a comedienne!

I’m pretty nervous and curious how the audience will react to it. Whatever I find funny, people might think otherwise.

Well, you certainly look different in the film. How did they new look sit with you?

The look I found very hilarious was the wacky hairstyle and the really thick 800-degree glasses. I couldn’t stop laughing looking at myself looking like this for the first time!

It wasn’t very comfortable wearing the glasses initially — I was feeling giddy and couldn’t see properly. Now, it’s my favourite prop from the movie. I kept it as a souvenir after the shoot.

What was it like playing a character with multiple personalities?

Well, this film helped to fulfil one of my little dreams, which is to become a rock singer. I go to rock concerts all the time in Beijing and I’ve always wanted to experience the feeling of being on stage as a rock star. The last scene in the film is about Fan Fan being overwhelmed by the reaction from the audience after her rock performance on stage. It was fantastic!

Your boyfriend Li Daqi also worked on the film as a stylist/art director. Was it strange working together?

We actually spent less time together even though we were working on the same film project. During a shoot, we seldom discuss work in case we influence each other. It was only until I watched the making of the movie that I could then better understand the reasons behind the set designs he did for the film.

You’ve worked with many acclaimed directors throughout your career. What was it like working with Tsui Hark?

Years ago, we spoke about working together for another film project. We didn’t talk about it again until he asked me about doing a comedic role last year. Of course I took it up immediately and that’s how All About Women came about.

It was very enjoyable working with Tsui Hark. He’s very adorable and full of charisma at the same time. My performance in the movie was also based on my observations of him in real life! - TODAY/rose

By Genevieve Loh
Date: 03 December 2008

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