Chinese cinema starts exploring all possibilities

The rapid commercialization of the Chinese film industry is on show on two sides of the world this week - with productions at opposite ends of the cinematic spectrum.

In China, audiences are preparing for the release next Tuesday of the industry's "first fashion film'', the Alexi Tan-directed, John Woo-produced Color Me Love which is being promoted at the nation's answer to the smash Hollywood hit The Devil Wears Prada.

It charts the story of a young fashion intern (Yao Chen) who falls into a relationship with an artist (Liu Ye) and his actress girlfriend (Mo Xiaoqi) - and struggles with life in the heady world of clothes design. And it also stars screen veteran Joan Chen ( The Last Emperor) as a no-nonsense fashion magazine editor.

The film has been sponsored by 20 international fashion houses, including Versace, which contributed a haute-couture dress worth a reported US$400,000 (280,000 euros).

On the other side of the world, this week's American Film Market in Santa Monica is on Friday unveiling the first Chinese-made "erotic'' film since 1996 and it's been shot in 3D.

3D Sex and Zen will when finished run for 130 minutes and feature 30 to 40 minutes of sex scenes, according to the film's producers, who are busy in Santa Monica trying to firm up international distribution deals.

They are aiming for a May 1 release for the film - to coincide with the national holiday.

Meanwhile, there's been little news out of the Chinese box office this week; the last figures available were for the week ending October 24 and Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was ruling with more than US$41 million (29 million euros) in total.

In Japan though SP: The Motion Picture - about a group of policemen dealing with the threat of terrorism and a film that has been based on a wildly popular TV series - made a stunning debut, picking up US$6.3 million (4.4 million euros) for the weekend ending October 31.

And Hong Kong caught Halloween fever like most of the world, elevating Saw 3D to the top of the charts with weekend takings of close to US$320,000 (225,000 euros).