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Interesting piece FB. I love the early stuff if Loy I've seen, but I always dated "early" as around the time of the Thin Man, and have no experience with this racy stuff (both kink factor and racism factor). Good note that that film is TCM, I'll have to DVR it next time its up. I have no idea what this (http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Loy,%20Myrna/Annex/Annex%20-%20Loy,%20Myrna_05.jpg) picture is from, other than Macro's superb stills site, but it seems to be similar to the one you linked in the first paragraph.


Hey Filmbrain, this is not related, but what do you think of this: http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.asp?feed=AP&Date=20060126&ID=5448302

I wonder what this is going to do to the Korean industry...


Wow, Danny -- that's quite a picture. I'm not sure what film that would be from -- let me do some digging.


Wilson --

It's interesting -- in a book I'm reading about Im Kwon-taek there is discussion about the quota system, and how it hasn't been adhered to all that well over the years.

Hard to say what effect this will have on the Korean film industry. Ticket sales have been up overall on Korean films, but this will probably make it even harder for smaller films to find local financing. If there are going to be fewer Korean films, I'm sure the money will be funneled towards the high-concept pics. Sigh.

Peter Nellhaus

Of course just when you'd think people would know better, David Carradine gets "Kung Fu" over Bruce Lee. It is interesting to note that the casting of Chinese actresses may have hurt "Geisha" even more in China than Japan. What Hollywood needs to wake up to is that they need to be more proactive with Asian-American talent. I'm hoping "Mission Impossible 3" brings more attention to Maggie Q.


And let's not forget Gong Li in Mann's MIAMI VICE. Also, please excuse the awful grammer and spelling in my first post, I don't know what I was thinking.

Peter Nellhaus

My understanding is that Gong Li is playing a the part of a biracial woman, Chinese-Cuban. My problem with Miami Vice is that filming screwed up traffic where I live (Miami Beach).


Great post! Recently watched the Christopher Lee versions of Fu Manchu (Jess Franco's attachment should say something). And. It was painful. To watch.


Interesting bit of research on Loy, Filmbrain. I haven't seen any of her Orientalist masquerades, but Loy conveys a certain sophisticated, knowing sexuality and intelligence that is sadly absent among movie stars and starlets today.

As for the Memoirs of a Geisha controversy, I think the whole project is misconceived, but casting Chinese actresses in Japanese roles is not necessarily a sign of racial insensitivity. The Australian Eric Bana was cast as an Israeli, and as far as I know, he's not even a Jew. Ben Kingsley probably played at least ten different nationalities. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, as far as I know, are straight. Etc.

There's understandably a lot of grumbling in China about this, due primarily to heightened political tensions with Japan but also because Zhang Ziyi is now considered a national treasure. From my own (American) standpoint, what's unappealing is the notion of an Orientalist geisha movie directed by Rob Marshall. It's not as if the Japanese have no idea how to wield a movie camera.


Once again I find us eerily echoing one another, as my top of the blog is part 2 on Luise Rainer. Part of the reason it took me so long was my wrestling with what to say about the yellowface in The Good Earth. I didn't even deal with Charlie Grapewin and Walter Connolly.

I also just re-read Loy's "Being and Becoming," where she has tart and funny things to say about her vamp period. I would really like to see Thirteen Women.


As for the Doctor Macro still from Phyrephox, my money is on "The Squall" (1929), dir. Alexander Korda.



I know that most East Asians (or people of East Asian descent) can see physical differences between the faces of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc. that make cross-ethnic casting problematic. All that said, I agree with Ryan that it's not necessarily any worse than the national mixmaster casting of MUNICH or many Europudding films. (How many of the actors cast as Mossad agents in MUNICH are really Jewish?) Isn't there something problematic about Ralph Fiennes playing 3 generations of Hungarian Jews - all of whom speak English - in SUNSHINE, which is akin to making FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE in English with B. D. Wong in Leslie Cheung's part?

Matthew B.

To give an even closer comparison, there've been Chinese actors playing Japanese in Kawashima Yoshiko, Japanese playing Korean in Blood and Bone, Korean playing Chinese in The Promise, and so on ad nauseam. It's quite routine in Asian film, especially in international coproductions. And yet I do find it a little odd that none of the three main female parts in Memoirs went to a Japanese. (Nobody I know in Japan seems particularly upset by the casting, though there've been a few negative comments in the press.)

I haven't seen any of these Loy films but A Girl in Every Port (she was in that?), but I've read a couple of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories. They're odd books. Racist as hell, and yet with a certain sympathy for the villains, and Rohmer's obviously far more fascinated by the faux-Oriental netherworld he's constructed than by his stolid British protagonists.


Grotesque as Mickey Rooney's teriyaki yukking may be, nothing can beat Lee J. Cobb as the Chief Minister in Anna and the King of Siam (John Cromwell, 1946). The border between 'inscrutable' and 'embarrassed' has never been so wispy.


I'm not particularly upset over the Memoirs of a Geisha issue. I haven't seen the film or read the book but from the little information I've heard about them isn't the book supposed to just be a fictionalised piece written by an American? It sounds like it was the perfect material to make a Hollywood adaptation where realism is never the strong suit - the Chinese casting does not annoy me as much as it would if it was a film purporting to portray real events (e.g. Munich for example). It's just a pure fluffy melodrama, and while I'd like to see it because of the actors involved, I'd never approach it thinking it would ever be a realistic portrait of Japanese society - I'd look to Japanese films first and foremost.

In that sense I'm not bothered about Rob Marshall directing it - if he was going to direct a remake of Raise The Red Lantern or The Blue Kite I'd be upset!

Going back to Munich I would say Munich's 'mixmaster casting' is worse than Memoirs since it is trying to portray true events albeit in a fictional, thriller-ish way. I'm not saying it's important for the audience to know that every actor in the film has been through a bris milah to be able to play Jews, but casting problems are much more important to me in films that are trying to portray real events - not as important as changing what happened to make it more dramatically exciting, but casting factors in much more. I forgive any 'fictional' film a lot, willing to put up with strange or bad casting (and often enjoying it!) because I've always got the knowledge of it being a fictional piece in the back of my mind.

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