Early 2014 could easily be theprime of Feng Xiaogang’scareer. On January 30, hismuch-anticipated direction ofthe Spring Festival Gala aired throughoutChina to hundreds of millions. His latestfilm, Personal Tailor, hit China’s bigscreens at the end of 2013. In just ten days,its box office revenue soared to 500 millionyuan, breaking Feng’s personal record.By January 5, 2014, Personal Tailor hadgrossed 666 million yuan.
However, Feng remained unhappy. Hishighest-grossing film yet met fierce criticism.
Many critics didn’t think much ofFeng’s new work. A film researcher knownas “Daqihupi” on Weibo asserted that“Personal Tailor respects neither film northe audience. It lacks a solid structure andconcrete characters. The film features onlyan array of ads and a few jokes.”
Feng was outraged. He posted severaltweets in response to “the majority of criticswho pretend they know film” and evenswore never to forgive them.
One of China’s top-grossing film directorsof all time, Feng was born in Beijingin 1958. Before his career as a director,he served in the army, worked as a stagedesigner, and went on to direct several TV series. In 1997, his first New Year comedyDream Factory hit the big screen. With abudget of only six million yuan, its boxoffice topped 36 million yuan, a muchneededboost amid a Chinese film marketslump at the time.
Since then, comedy in the Beijingdialect has become symbolic of Feng’swork. Gradually, Chinese movie fans beganexpecting his latest opus at the end of everyyear. From Dream Factory, Be There or BeSquare, Sorry Baby, to Big Shot’s Funeral,Cell Phone, and If You Are the One, Fengproved a consistently heavy hitter in termsof box office revenue.
The success of Feng’s New Year comedieslies in his “down-to-earth” workingstyle. His films are aimed at the mainstreampublic and he knows the Chineseaudience. He portrays Chinese society realistically.
A Sigh is about extramarital love,a sensitive issue in the country. Cell Phonetackles social, marital, and familial problemsarising from such a relatively new, butlife-changing tool. And If You Are the Onedeals with the topic of “leftover women” inChina, which refers to single, urban, andeducated women.