The Movie Emperor

Italian Premiere | In Competition


The combination of the talents of Ning Hao – one of the most critically and commercially successful directors in the history of Chinese cinema – and the charisma of Andy Lau – one of Asian cinema’s biggest stars – could not fail to produce a highly intelligent, hilarious and irreverent movie. The two great artists previously worked together on Ning Hao’s first big commercial success, the film Crazy Stone, which was produced with Andy Lau through the Focus First Cut young film support fund. Almost 20 years later, in The Movie Emperor – a brilliant example of a film within a film – the roles are reversed: Ning Hao himself plays the small but not insignificant role of a film-maker who has to direct a famous actor undergoing an identity crisis. The actor in question is called Dany Lau, but he could also be called Andy Lau directly or bear the name of any other famous actor who, having reached a critical stage in his career, becomes paranoid, obsessed with the fear of declining physical beauty, charisma, roles, becomes jealous of younger colleagues, and envious of the success of others. Above all, he reflects on whether his life has been well spent, whether the priorities that guided him were the right ones, and whether it is possible for someone whose whole existence has been “larger than life” to become a normal person .

To try to satisfy both of these needs – to win awards at film festivals to satiate his vanity and at the same time understand what life is like for an ordinary person – he decides to accept the role of a farmer who raises pigs in a small independent production. As the director of the indie film tells him in one of the many laugh-out-loud but tragically realistic scenes typical of the art-house films much-loved at festivals, “It’s all about cotton padded jackets,” an allusion to Chinese films celebrated abroad and which tend to portray Chinese peasant culture. Dany throws himself full-throttle into the role, in a series of situations that range from the absurd to the grotesque to the almost tragic – he asks the pig farmer to be his teacher, he insists on not using a stunt double for the horseback riding scenes, he even ends up adopting a pig. All with disastrous results .

Because Dany Lau, like the naive protagonist of Robert Östlund’s The Square, just can’t bring himself to empathise with normal people, those who live outside the cocooned and cruel world of the entertainment business. And in the age of social media, even the slightest mistake can provoke extreme repercussions.. .

A merciless satire of the film industry – not only Chinese – The Movie Emperor entertains while also providing much food for serious thought. The film had a huge budget (261 million CNY), and in addition to Lau’s usual impeccable performance, the film also includes many cameos by famous artists. Its success at the box office was written in the stars. However, after a triumphant premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September and at the Pingyao Int’l Film Festival in October 2023, the film’s big screen release during Chinese New Year 2024 was unexpectedly disappointing (83 million CNY) due to scheduling overlaps with other major films released at the same time, forcing the film’s distribution to temporarily withdraw it pending a better release date, so as to optimise the commercial appeal of both the cast and the director.

Maria Barbieri
Film director: NING Hao
Year: 2023
Running time: 127'
Country: China
28/04 - 8:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
28-04-2024 20:30 28-04-2024 22:37Europe/Rome The Movie Emperor Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine