Shanghai Film Festival Attracts Crowds and Celebrities: Yue-Sai Kan Throws Pre-Opening Party
Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) was president of the awards jury at the 12th Shanghai International Film Festival. The panel also included Andie McDowell (memorably Hugh Grant’s co-star in “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and the prolific Hong Kong director/cinematographer Andrew Lau, known in the west for his action and crime films such as the “Young and Dangerous” series.
China’s largest, fastest-growing and most influential such event, the Shanghai Film Festival, attracted an international mix of industry types and celebrities for the June 13 opening — the same A-list crowd that inspired celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan to cover the scene last year.
Though I didn’t score one of the hot opening night tickets, I was glued to my TV watching the coverage well past midnight — so lengthy because it was narrated in both English and Chinese.
I can’t wait to see the feature selected to open the event, He Ping’s “Wheat,” a dramedy on the lunacy of war set in the Warring States period. (For me, this genre of Chinese film offers great historical perspective.)
About 300 foreign and domestic films were screened in local movie houses during the festival week. There was a retrospective of French avant-garde movies and another of the works of director Alfred Hitchcock (“The Birds,” “Rear Mirror,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” and “Rope”).
Local movie buffs snapped up tickets to the most popular new releases: Ron Howard’s thriller “Angels and Demons,” starring Tom Hanks; the Oscar-winning animated “Wall-E”; the much-talked about French cinema event “Public Enemy Number One,” starring Gerard Depardieu as the controversial criminal Jacques Mesrine; and “Duplicity,” with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts as sexy spies-turned-corporate operatives.
Few releases from abroad are seen here. Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was one of only 20 foreign films approved per year to play in Chinese theatres, a limited number because China wants to develop its own movie industry for its vast audience of 1.3 billion potential moviegoers.
Quincy Jones, “Bond Girls” Among Yue-Sai Kan’s Guest
International personality, TV host and entrepreneur Yue-Sai Kan, my cherished friend, was chairman of the Festival Celebrity Committee. She racked up a lot of mileage awards traveling among New York, Shanghai (she has homes in both places), and California to line up “name” attendees, and effort that paid off brilliantly.
One star “get” was Quincy Jones, the legendary conductor, producer, arranger, composer and trumpeter. Jones collaborated notably with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson (“Thriller,” “Bad,” and “We are the World”) and has spent a lot of time in Shanghai (for its beautiful women, possibly?). The newest of his many honors is the Lifetime Achievement award he was awarded by the Shanghai Film Festival.
For the Shanghai Expo, which opens in May 2010, Jones has also been asked to write a theme song with Tan Dun of China, the Grammy-and Oscar-winning classical composer who scored “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hero.”
Jones’ good friend Halle Berry, the first African-American to win a Best Actress Oscar (as co-star with Billy Bob Thornton in “Monster’s Ball”), also received an Artistic Achievement Award from the Festival.
Yue-Sai’s international guest list also included Clive Owen, from Britain: Peter Fonda, from the U.S; and Vivian Chu (“Last Emperor,” “The Soong Sisters”) from China. The Italian contingent included Maria Grazia Cucinotta (“Il Postino,” “The World is Not Enough,” and considered the new Gina Lollobrigida) and Caterina Murino (“Casino Royale”).
Guest Joanna Cappo pointed out that Murino, Cucinotta and Berry (whose credits include “Die Another Day”) were all James Bond girls. (A fourth arrived for the closing ceremony, Michelle Yeoh, who appeared in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” as well as “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Being a Bond girl is evidently a great springboard!) French actress Isabelle Huppert came for the closing also.
Only Yue-Sai’s 10,000 penthouse, with its many cozy seating arrangements, could have accommodated the 100-plus crowd that enjoyed cocktails and a buffet. It was great fun and informal enough so all the ladies unabashedly flocked around Clive Owen for their photo ops.
Halle Berry, straight from a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles, where she’d left behind her 14-month-old, stopped at her hotel only to change and then came directly to the party. A real trouper, she smiled, chatted, and impressed everyone with her graciousness — and her looks. (“Beautiful,” I heard. “Her personality, her features, her body, her skin … perfect!”)
Kan gave Berry embroidered Chinese pajamas to take back to her little one, to whom she was returning the very next day. Before she left, she made a tourist stop at Yu Yuan Garden, where she ran into a former beau. Yes, it’s a small world.
Partying On at The Exclusive MINT
Berry, along with Owen, Kan, Boyle, Jones, MacDowell and Murino kept the party going at the members-only M1NT club, enjoying the roof terrace with its sublime city view.
Energetic gallery owner Elizabeth de Brabant was among the party-hearty who lingered until 4:30 a.m. That lady loves to dance!
The M1NT got not only “Best New Club” but also the “Club of the Year” Choice Award from “City Weekend Reader” – along with top honors for “Best Bartender,” “Best Cocktail,” even “Best Bathroom.”
Talk on Three Topic – Bridging the East and the West
Even with a packed week, icon Yue-Sai Kan and music impresario Quincy Jones still found the energy to speak to a packed crowd at the Three on the Bund Talk. The topic was billed as East Meets West: Conversations between Eastern Icon Yue-Sai Kan and Western Legend Quincy Jones.
The two are such long-time friends that the discussion was a lively and informal exchange, which made for a very entertaining afternoon.
Barbie Is Now A China Doll!
Still a babe at the half-century mark, Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday in March. For her birthday present she unwrapped the world’s largest Barbie store, the six-story, 38,000-square-foot Barbie Shanghai at 550 Huai Hai Road in the exclusive Shanghai shopping district.
There was a simultaneous birthday celebration at the Barbie store in Malibu—and Barbie, with Ken (her longtime companion), managed to be at both!
Unlike the American Girl Places — doll-centric emporiums in New York and Chicago — the Barbie store isn’t targeted only to kids. Mattel Toys is betting on Barbie as a compelling fashion and lifestyle icon for young Chinese women in their 20s and 30s.
So, along with a dolls-of-the-world library and places for youngsters to design their own Barbie outfits and strut on a real fashion runway, the store also includes such grownup attractions as a salon that gives facials and a couture fashion collection by such designers as Vera Wang and Patricia Field.
The 1,600 Barbie products also include games jewelry, skin-care products and makeup. And the Barbie Café, Restaurant and Chocolate Bar was designed by celebrity chef/ restaurateur David Laris, of the award-winning Laris Restaurant on the Bund.
At the opening in China, Laura Lai, GM of Barbie Shanghai, and Richard Dickson, GM & Senior VP Marketing, Barbie, greeted visitors who rode to the main floor via the Pink Tunnel — a neon-lit escalator from which the prerecorded sound of giggling girls bubbles up.
The glamorous attendees in Shanghai and Malibu included international models Heidi Klum, QiQi, CariDee English, and Song Shanshan.
Actors, TV personalities and singers at the bashes for Barbie included Holly Robinson Peete, Alison Brie, Wu Pei Ci, Allison Sweeney, Ashley Argota, Melissa Joan Hart, Hills TV cast Lauren Conrad, Lauren Bosworth, songwriter Aubrey O’Day, Sun Li, Chinese actor Jet Li, socialite fashionistas Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, and actress Gennifer Goodwin.
Over the years, 11 ½-inch-tall Barbie has created giant controversy because of the focus on her looks and clothing. In response, Mattel now also emphasizes accomplishments, packaging and sending into the world Barbies defined by more than 100 careers — not just models and princesses, but also athletes, astronauts, pet trainers and doctors.
Today, there are Asian, African and Caucasian Barbies, representing 45 nationalities (and all manufactured in the U.S.) But 90% of the dolls stocked in Shanghai are blond. Researchers say customers expect a blond doll “because Barbie is American.”
However, I hear that the collectible Chinese New Year Barbie Doll, 2006, with her silky red gown and mandarin collar, is already sold out. (In Chinese Barbie is pronounced “Ba Bi Wa Wa”).
Some time later, I stopped by the Barbie Café with my daughter Stephanie Lawrence and her friend Alixe Laughlin visiting from Manhattan. We decided Dickson was right on when he called the store “a fantastic Barbie’s dreamland.”
The Barbie store was packed with little girls, accompanied by their mothers, and couples with their friends shopping for items with the Barbie logo. Later we went to the beauty salon and enjoyed a Barbie manicure with Barbie pink, of course.
Happy Birthday, Barbie!
Photographs by Fabien Gaillard and Jeanne Lawrence.