It’s one of those inescapable maxims of modern movie-making capitalism: China has money, and China loves (some) movies, and thus does the cosmic ballet continue. THR reports today that the Chinese government has suddenly and unexpectedly reversed its plans to allow Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood to air in the country, thus cutting the film off from millions of moviegoers who really wanted to watch that scene of Brad Pitt laconically feeding his dog.
There’s been no official ruling on why the movie has been kicked off the notoriously fickle (but lucrative) Chinese release schedule, but speculation has pooled around two distinct possibilities: The movie’s occasional bursts of extreme, hippy-immolating violence, and its exhaustively discussed depiction of Hong Kong film legend Bruce Lee. Either one of those would likely be enough to tank distribution plans for a government that’s never really not looking for an excuse to exclude Hollywood films from its theaters; together, they apparently spelled outright doom—especially for Chinese company Bona Film Group, which put up a “sizable equity stake” for the film’s production, presumably on the grounds that it would like to be able to sell it to people in China, please.
The most fascinating question cropping up here is more artistic, though: Will Tarantino re-cut his movie? China has never been especially receptive to his films as an institution, with Django Unchained the only one to have ever gotten an official release, albeit in a delayed, cut-down form. (That situation actually mirrors this one, given that Chinese officials pulled the film from theaters as it was literally beginning to screen, citing, uh, “technical issues.”) THR reports that Bona Film is rushing to work with Tarantino to make some sort of government-official-friendly version of the movie before its scheduled October 25 release—maybe replacing the flamethrower with a big ol’ squirt gun, we guess?—but it’s still unclear whether Tarantino is going to be especially receptive to these calls to alter his movie in the face of, well, big giant piles of cash.
Update: Per THR, at least one source “close to the situation” is reporting that Tarantino has no interest whatsoever in creating a China-specific cut of Once Upon A Time…, and that the director’s approach to this whole debacle is to present his film as a take-or-leave-it affair.