Sure, you probably know that China boasts the world’s largest population, gross domestic product, military force, and annual aluminum production. But did you also know that it’s the world’s largest producer of movies and TV series based on the classic Chinese shenmo novel Journey To The West? The last three years alone have seen a loose adaptation helmed by Stephen Chow and two movies directed by Soi Cheang, and Tsui Hark is currently in post-production on a sequel to Chow’s film.
By most estimates, China will become the world’s largest film market within the next two years, and it will not stop until every Chinese director has made at least one movie inspired by the colorful adventures of the monkey king Sun Wukong, the pig warrior Zhu Bajie, and the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who is actually the protagonist, but is less fun than either of his more famous companions. (Of course we’re forgetting Sha Wujing, who used to live in a river, and Yulong, the dragon prince who is mostly a horse, but that’s with good reason.)
Now Sixth Generation filmmaker and all-around arthouse icon Jia Zhangke has announced that he is developing yet another adaptation, part of a co-production initiative between China and India, the “West” of the title. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jia is for now only planning to produce the project, and given that Journey To The West is about 2,500 pages long and that whole features have been adapted from short sections of the book, one can’t speculate too much on what the film will be about.
Wong Kar-Wai is producing another Chinese-Indian co-production as part of the same initiative, based on the life of the real seventh-century monk and traveller Xuanzang, who inspired the same-named character in Journey To The West. Details about Jia’s project will be announced later this year. For now, he’s presumably busy with his Mountains May Depart theme restaurant, which is real.