Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chinese actresses in Italian gowns--a perfect combination.

Shu Qi on the red carpet has meant dresses by Valentino for several years (with occasional flings with other designers, almost always Italian, so it was no surprise when she was one of the featured players at the 45th anniversary celebration of the fashion house founded by Valentino Garavani in Rome a couple of years ago.

She made quite a splash in this extravagant number in his signature red. One shoulder dresses can be difficult for anyone to carry off well, although this is an exception. With the single shoulder not crossing over, so much detail elswhere, the odd purse that looks made from the same fabric and gets swallowed up by the dress, a huge bracelet but other accessories it is a distinctive look in which she excels. Photo from Zimbio.

It was a two day party. Shu Qi's look on the second day was more subdued and quite elegant. Even that goofy huge bow didn't spoil things.

Another one from 2007 at the Berlin International Film Festival. This is an illustration of how a talented designer like Valentino can make a dress that probably looks hideous in one of his stores or on a rack but is very effective on the right person.

Lots of circles--the more you look the more you see but even though insanely busy is works.

This is from Cannes 2009, wearing Roberto Cavalli and looking as lovely in blue as she did in red. Photo from

A few views of another blue Cavalli dress, this one a royal blue that she really seems to enjoy showing off. Since she was on the jury at Cannes in 2009 Cavalli really got his money's worth in exposure. First photo from, second from

(Sorry about the color shift on the right hand part of the image above)

Zhang Ziyi wears Armani almost exclusively at public events. Here she is at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institue Ball, one of New Yorks's biggest and most publicized social/fashion events, making the one-shoulder, almost no accesories style look great.

At the 2008 White Tie and Tiara Ball Armani had her in a classic evening dress with spaghetti straps, empire waist and long train. A dynamite look.

For the front row of Armani's 2010 Spring/Summer show in Milan, September 2009 she wore a very "Great Gatsby" in a shorts suit and baker hat. First photo through originally in "Life", second from Red Carpet Fashion Awards.

Nice hat.

At the 2006 Golden Globes we see what happens a chartreuse Armani dress trails across a red carpet that was shedding and leaving a layer of crimson fuzz on the hem.

Being pawed by an alarming orange Giorgio for the photographers during his visit to Tokyo in 2005.

To how how badly things can go, Zhang Ziyi in a strange Fendi outfit at the Great Wall fashion show in 2007. Photo from Red Carpet Fashion Awards.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jet Li and accceptance of emigration

The post below discusses the reaction of Chinese internet users to Gong Li officially emigrating from China and becoming a citizen of Singapore. One of her compatriots, Jet Li, followed the same path recently. Like Gong Li he hadn't really lived in China for years and his moving to Singapore was termed a family matter. In Gong Li's case she had married a citizen of the island nation at the tip of the Malay peninsula. For Jet Li it was the education of his daughter who had started school there.

In this case there wasn't such blanket condemnation from the "netizens"--in an article here there is a lively although quickly tiresome discussion among those with an internet connection and an opinion concerning Jet Li which is only notable by the difference between it and the attacks on Gong Li as a traitor to her country.

CRIEnglish has this story which simply recounts what the writer knew about the subject and the Global Times covers it here, going so far as to say that "No matter which citizenship Li chose, he is still a Chinese in many people’s eyes and deserves our respect for his contribution to China and its people" giving him the kind of respect of which Gong Li clearly wasn't worthy.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this disparity in reaction--Jet Li almost always played heros, including some of the most heroic heros ever put on film while Gong Li did not, for example--but the most obvious one to this not well informed outsider is gender. Jet Li is doing the right thing for his family by turning his back on China while Gong Li is selling out her birthright by joining her husband in his country of birth.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who doesn't love Gong Li?

Or perhaps another way to put it is: who hates Gong Li? According to the media storm that hit last year after she announced she was becoming a citizen of Singapore, hundreds of millions of people in China. As is so often the case when the pulse of the body politic is taken in the PRC the "netizens"--a very clumsy neologism--were consulted and were found to be outraged. For them it was a matter of national pride--China doesn't allow its citizens to hold dual nationality so she had to discard her Chinese citizenship. Based on the reaction one might think she had blown up a section of the Great Wall. Gong Li was branded a traitor, a shame to her native land, unworthy of being called Chinese and "the most hated Chinese celebrity". Since that last epithet ran in and was illustrated by the picture at the top of this post it may have been at least partially sardonic toward the subjects of the article although such publications aren't known for their irony.

In Singapore itself the "Straits Times" piled on a bit, claiming that Gong Li had "raised the ire" of Singaporeans by not being present when her citizenship was actually granted. Read the Breaking News accompanied by a lovely picture of our heroine pledging allegiance to her new homeland and looking quite resolute. Even the "TimesOnline" found the space to cover the story and find internet users to quote.

Whatever Gong Li's reasons for becoming a citizen of Singapore may be, we know that she has been married to Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Soeng since 1996.

I was going to quote some statistics about how Chinese internet users are predominately young, urban and male so that using such sources might be a bit like taking a survey on fraternity row at a big college but I will just reference a summary from the China Internet Network Information Center here. There is a link at to the entire PDF report, which seems to take a long time to load, at the end of the article.

There are those who don't hate Gong Li, though--or at least are able for professional reasons to act as if they value her company. Among them are

Aishwarya Rai and Letitia Casta, her fellow L'oreal Beauty Ambassadors, (a more descriptive title I cannot imagine) at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. (Zimbio photo)


At the premiere of "Hannibal Rising" she is getting the most clumsy looking semi-air kiss from Peter Webber, the director, as Jay-Z models a scarf. (Zimbio photo)

This unidentified English socialite gets along with her fine as they compare the number of feathers each has on her dress at Britian's Best awards in 2008. (Zimbio photo)

And at the amfAR gala during the Venice Film Festival in 2002, where she showed she could turn into the camera with a killer smile while not knocking over her water glass, her dinner companions didn't seem to mind Gong Li's presence. It might be possible to look as perfectly elegant--Grace Kelly comes to mind--but certainly not more so. (WireImage)

And like the "Beauty Ambassadors" picture above, here is another paean to multiculturalism as Gong Li glams it up with Andie Macdowell and Kerry Washington, neither of whom seem to have a problem getting along with her. I guess backs were in that year. (Zimbio photo)

Gong Li's attitude might be summed up by what she said over a decade ago when asked in an inteview about how she dealt with the press. It may well be the case for the zillions of netizens who have such hatred for her. In an interview from 1997 which can be found here. She says, "If I don't see what people write about me, they don't bother me. If I do, I'll curse them out in my heart. So I laugh it all off."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Terri Kwan on New Currents Jury at PIFF, in case you missed it.

Terri Kwan, in addition to her duties promoting her new film "Prince of Tears" at the Pusan International Film Festival in October was also on the jury for the New Currents section, a not in competition section of the festival to introduce, publicize and reward young Asian directors. THR has coverage of it here. The jury was headed by French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beineix who has been producing for the past decade but who will be remembered by many in the United States as the director of "Diva" the film that helped push reading subtitles into the movie going mainstream.

There are two prizes of $30,000 each, which could be important to young directors trying to raise money for their second or third feature. For example one of the films under consideration was "True Noon" the first film produced in Tajikistan since the break-up of the Soviet Union. It took director Nosir Saidov seven years to put his film together.

Some pictures of Terri Kwan being judicious:

Here she is listening along with Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu to Beineix. Photo from Zimbio.

And here is Beineix listening (or at least not speaking) while Terri Kwan holds forth. While Beineix doesn't show the same intense listening posture that Terri did, as a trained actor she could have been finishing that day's crossword puzzle from the "South China Morning Post" in her head while acting like a listener. Photo from Life.

With Chinese actress turned director Jiang Wenli, whose film about rural China "Lan" was in the New Currents section. Remaining photos from Zimbio

Here she is on the jury panel, looking lovely:

And another--nice eyelashes!

A still from "Prince of Tears" that looks almost hand colored. It is from a review in The New York Times

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gong Li for Aimer Lingerie at China Fashion Week event--How a superstar deals with a wardrobe malfunction

There have been plenty of pictures on the web of Gong Li in a knoockout beaded dress at a packed press conference for Aimer Lingerie--the one in which she was asked at least twice what her bust size is. Here are a few more that were picked up by AdmiringGongLi largely from the the entertainment news site Yoka which show how to deal with a recalcitrant train on a dress and still remain calm and on message.

It all starts here, with Gong Li, flanked by according to Yoka "dozens of security guards" plus a few well wishers and fans, making her way to the stage for the press conference. Very practically she is holding the train of her dress which is fine backstage but hardly the way to make an entrance before the gathered fashion press. Incidentally the train looks like a disaster waiting to happen, a very light material that might simply fall straight down and become just a bunch of cloth waiting to trip the unwary wearer.

Which it does. This looks like the first mishap backstage Gong Li and everyone else stop in their tracks to get things sorted out. Clearly she stepped on her train.

She makes it on stage with a bunch of people without mishap although with a lot of people standing around trying not to make things worse:

but then gets tangled up again in the dress from hell.

So now she has to deal with questions while a helpful woman from Aimer tries to keep the train straight:

She really has her work cut out for her--this is a good illustration of both how flimsy and light the skirt and train are and how now matter what happens, it seems, any movement finds it under Gong Li's feet again:

By now she was probably thinking: "This is the last time I let the client pick out the dress" plus maybe "How much am I getting paid for this campaign?" but also "It beats getting strapped into those insane corsets every day for Curse of the Golden Flower", but playing things off with a laugh:

Everything works out, of course, the gathered hounds of the press don't get to report on a pratfall by a major star and she has the perfect self-deprecating, ruefully sexy look at the end.

The opening shot of the campaign. They might be selling underwear but it looks like something from a Roland Emmerich movie.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Terri Kwan, Zhu Xuan at Prince of Tears Opening--How to wear (and not wear) a cheongsam

The the recent Taipei premier of "Prince of Tears" Terri Kwan wore a radically styled cheongsam with the usual demure neckline but with a more daring cut on on the back and particularly the sides. She paired it with pumps that closely matcher her dress and simple accessories and looked great. As did Zhu Xuan in a short eventing dress that looked like it was made of dyed feathers and Christian Louboutin T-strap pumps. Christian Louboutin seems to be one of the weapons of choice on the red carpet this season for Chinese stars. From szonline through Dennis Lee's blog.

A few pictures from the red carpet showing that Terri Kwan is fully aware of the power of the traditional Chinese dress, updated but still with much the expected structure.

Here are a couple of Terri Kwan and Zhu Xuan, the first particularly showing the bold cut of Terri's gown.

While the cheongsam is by no means foolproof--here Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki shows that it is not always flattering to the wearer. For example if the placement of the side slit makes it difficult to sit in a ladylike or even comfortable looking position:

And Paris Hilton shows a westernized, updated (updated to the Madonna Blonde Ambition Tour 20 years ago) and quite dreadful version, although picking on Paris Hilton's fashion sense really isn't fair.

The ne plus ultra of the cheongsam as a ravishing outfit, of course, is Maggie Cheung with her 32 or 33 different ones in "In the Mood for Love". Since the film was set in the 1960s and Maggie's character lived among people from Shanghai who had been uprooted to Hong Kong, the dresses were traditionally cut with the silk printed in astounding patterns. A few examples:

Here is a close-up to show the lavish pattern of one of them:

The lovely Tang Wei, while most notorious for her nudity in "Lust Caution" also wore great looking cheongsams during scenes in which she was allowed to keep her clothes on. For example:

And there is Gong Li. There is always Gong Li. Any actress who could look exquisite in a padded peasant's coat with a ratty scarf tied around her hair (which she did in "The Story of Qiuju") is going to be simply sublime in a cheongsam, particularly one cut like this one:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Zhang Ziyi, Li Bingbing, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and foreign men

I find it difficult to write about issue of ethnicity and nationality in countries other than the United States because my own nation is currently going through an often mean spirited debate concerning immigration, a debate that can easily veer into a racist demonizing of immigrants. One of the things that makes it different from other nations is that there is no "American" race or ethnic type, (other than the Native Americans who have been economically and socially marginalized) so the debate here is joined under the generally false premises of economic dislocation, loss of national identity and dilution of language.

So I will rush in where angels fear to tread with a question about the treatment of Chinese actresses and their relationships with "foreign" (which means in this case, I think, western) men. The most obvious is Zhang Ziyi who seems to be the most popular target over the past couple of years. Things weren't helped by the notorious poster for "Memoirs of a Geisha". Much could be attributed to artistic/commercial motives of wanting to produce a striking, memorable poster but the blue eyes in the image annoyed/outraged most Asian people that I knew at the time. In case you don't recall it:

Zhang Ziyi's relationship with Isaeli billionaire Vivi Nevo was a very big deal in China, with breathless reports of them kissing at a New York Nicks game all the way to the semi-public displays of "what the hell" on the beach at St. Barts. This is a relatively low-key and typical "China Daily' story. Another non-incendiary story ran in Yummy Celebrities although clearly a lot of those leaving comments had been waiting to do so for a while. I assume that comments on a celebrity site are more important in China than elsewhere because of the credibility given to the "netizens". A couple of them compared her to Gong Li--I found a few references to a "foreign" boyfriend that Gong Li may have had in 1995 but the articles that contained them were so scurrilous that I won't link to them.

Perhaps the strangest and funniest example ran in Singapore's Straits Times in which she was accused of swearing on live TV to show that she was now an international star.

It isn't just big stars, though. Tongues were wagging when Li Bingbing was accompanied after a hospital stay by a western man although she took pains to explain that they were not in a relationship.

Theses are a couple of screen grabs from "A World without Thieves"--some Chinese actresses my wish for a world without gossip rags.

Singer and actress Coco Lee doesn't have to explain her fiance, although his name (Bruce Richardson) and picture make it clear he is Caucasian--but not, in this case, "foreign". China Daily has the story. She looks great--all one can say about Bruce is that a lot of silkworms died in vain to make that suit and shirt combination.

Perhaps she got a pass on the foreign question because she is (or at least is reported in some outlets as being) Chinese-American born in Hong Kong, raised in San Francisco with dual citizenship.

Two movie icons that have escaped criticism--or at least any recent criticism--over the nationality/ethnicity of their respective fiance/spouse/companion are Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. I assume that with Michelle Yeoh it is because she is, while ethnically Chinese, is a citizen of Malaysia and may be more Malaysian than anything else. Her parents were from there, she was honored with the title Datuk and when made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French she collected the award at the French embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Here she shares a laugh with the ambassador while he presents the ribbon and medal representing the honor. Perfect dress for the occasion--very formal yet festive and the lack of accessories is a perfect touch since she is having an important one pinned on her. Clearly she doesn't neglect her arms during workouts.

And in a more typical shot, from "Wing Chun"

She has been engaged to or at least the common companion of Jean Todt, newly elected head of FIA, organization that runs the hyper-lucrative and oh-so-social Formula One racing circuit. Interesting couple--she is tall and gorgeous, he is short and toad-like but both are smart, have some money and move easily in almost any company. The only problem in the relationship seems to be that while he is eager to get married--or at least announce their engagement--she seems to be much less so. But at least she doesn't have to put up with a drumbeat of criticism from the press about seeing a foreigner.

Maggie Cheung may have gotten some flack when she first "abandoned" Hong Kong for Paris to make "Irma Vep" with Olivier Assayas and then married him, having made 70 movies in 11 years in the former Crown Colony. Now, divorced from Assayas, living where she wants to live--London, Paris, Hong Kong--and being accompanied by a series of European man the most recent German architect Ole Scheeren, who was based in Beijing and now is working in Bangkok. With her movie career largely behind her and happy, at least for now, being idolized by a new generation of fans and showing up at a few red carpet events and film festvals while trying to keep the top fashion designers in Paris and Milan from dedicating their entire season to her, Maggie must very well armored against the puny slings and arrows of Hong Kong gossip.

And of course:

From "Clean"

From "Irma Vep:

Anyone who stumbles across this entry may well know a lot more about this than I do and I would greatly appreciate those who correct mistakes of fact or emphasis or who can speak more knowledgably about the attitude of the Chinese gossip press toward Chinese actresses with foreign consorts.

Echoing what I began this post with, I realize that the USA is embroiled in a debate on nationality and citizenship that is of life and death importance to millions and which is often used cynically by politicans and can bring out the worst in many citizens here. So I am not criticizing anyone, just wondering about this particular issue. An example: If Natalie Portman become engaged to Chow Yun Fat there would be little outcry because she planned to marry a foreigner.