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Sunburn-only problem in Cannes

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Beijing (Reuters): Having just returned to Beijing, Wang Chao said he still feels the pain of Cannes. Not from a disappointing showing at the French film festival but from sunburn. ''I didn't put on suncream. The sunburn is still really painful!'' he said in an interview at a teahouse. Wearing a Cannes 2006 T-shirt and a radiant glow from his spell in the Riviera sunshine, Wang told Reuters that time spent indoors at the festival was less physically taxing.

''Seeing my film on screen was just great,'' the bespectacled, mid-forties director said between sips of tea. ''The audience cheered long and hard after the movie finished and made Tian Yuan feel just like a big, international movie star.'' The gallery's enthusiasm for Wang's third movie, ''Luxury Car'', starring 21-year-old arthouse starlet Tian Yuan, was shared by critics and judges, garnering best film in the festival's sidebar category, ''Un Certain Regard''.

The acclaim will see Wang's story of a fractured rural family in central China hit cinemas in 15 countries-and speaks volumes of the West's infatuation with uncompromising tales of modern China. ''Luxury Car''-written and directed by Wang -is a story of a man whose wife's dying wish is to see her son. He returns to the city to search for his son decades after being banished to the countryside for ''political incorrectness.'' There he meets his daughter, a prostitute in a karaoke TV club, played by Tian Yuan. The film maintains the film maker's fascination with harsh juxtapositions and shares the theme of hope born out of bad seeds of his previous two films, Orphan of Anyang and Day Night. But unlike his first two outings, ''Luxury Car'' has the green light to screen from China's censors despite its unflattering depiction of the nocturnal world of prostitutes and gangsters in Wuhan.

''Actually, they didn't cut any scenes,'' Wang said. ''Not even the ones with prostitution ... Instead they asked for a few swear words to be taken out. I was pretty surprised.'' Wang said five years ago, this movie would never have been possible, so there's definitely ''reason to be optimistic'' about the opening up of China's film industry but Wang is more concerned about the home audience's reaction. ''The sooner it's released here, the better. It's quite hot now,'' he said. ''But I'm not very optimistic because a few art films didn't do too well in China last year.'' Still, he will continue to chip away at the mainstream market with art films-regardless of local audience's apathy and sensibilities.

''I hope we can break into the mainstream bit by bit. There are still people here who like art movies.'' While the scholarly director is keen to maintain the integrity of his films, he said his ''trilogy'' of dark movies is over. Audiences might expect more light-hearted movies in future. ''I never intended to have this trilogy... In fact, I never intended for this movie to be like this at all.'' Originally planning a love story, events in his personal life threw his direction. Wang's mother fell ill with cancer, but he didn't find out until after she had recovered. ''I asked my family, 'Why, why didn't you tell me?'... They said they didn't want to disturb me with my work. It motivated me to think about other families in China who have the same situation-all the young boys and men in China who leave home to struggle in the city and who have little chance of going back.'' 

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