The Sun Also Rises, the third film by Chinese maverick director Jiang Wen, adopts an entirely different narrative and visual style to his previous films, the semi-autobiographical In The Heat Of The Sun and satirical drama Devils On The Doorstep.
Gone is the stark realism of those films, replaced by a dreamy, impressionistic style. "As I grow older and my understanding of film changes, the style naturally changes. No film-maker wants to repeat himself," says Jiang, who began his career as an actor.
In addition, keen to enhance the stunning desert scenery and impressed with its work on Amelie, Jiang has worked with Paris-based digital production house Dubois to utilise special effects for the first time in his films.
Shot in the highlands of Yunnan province and the Gobi desert in Xinjiang in the wild west of China, The Sun Also Rises is composed of four different stories entitled Madness, Gun, Love and Dream. Jiang also stars in the film alongside a stellar Asian cast headed by Joan Chen, Anthony Wong, Jaycee Chan and rising star Zhou Yun.
The Sun Also Rises screened at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals to much acclaim and is making its Asian debut at the Pusan International Film Festival next month.
It has taken Jiang seven years to present a new film internationally after the award-winning Devils On The Doorstep, partly because he faced a five-year ban from the Chinese government for participating in Cannes that year without permission. Beijing's Polybona Film Distribution recently released the film in China.
The Sun Also Rises was inspired by a Xinjiang folk song Jiang first heard 20 years ago (rather than the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name). On a hot summer night, the director and his college roommates whiled away a sleepless night by dancing and singing on the campus. "It has never gone out of my mind," Jiang explains. "For me, the song makes me think of images of a movie but until now I couldn't find the movie in my mind."
Two years ago, Jiang read Ye Mi's novel Velvet, "I felt I found the movie again," he says. "The stories re-appeared in my head as a complete movie story that I've been thinking of for a long time.
"The title of the film comes from The Bible (a passage from Ecclesiastes)," Jiang explains. "For me it's about the relationship between nature and humans - the sun rises and the sun sets; and hastening to its place it rises there again. A generation goes and a generation comes, but the Earth remains forever." The Sun Also Rises is a co-production between Hong Kong's Emperor Motion Pictures and Beijing Buyilehu Films, and Beijing Taihe Film Investment. Emperor is handling international sales.