From left, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski co-writers and co-directors of "Cloud Atlas," look on as Chinese actress Zhou Xun, right, speaks during a press conference held ahead of the movie's China premiere in Beijing, China.
Nearly 40 minutes have been chopped from China's version of the soon-to-be-released Hollywood film "Cloud Atlas," deleting both gay and straight love scenes to satisfy local censors despite a movie-going public that increasingly chafes at censorship.
It premiered Tuesday in Beijing in a red-carpet ceremony with actor Hugo Weaving and China's own Zhou Xun, but won't start running in Chinese theaters until next Thursday. The filmmaker's Chinese partners have slashed that version from the U.S. runtime of 172 minutes to a pared-down 134 to expunge the "passionate" episodes.
"The 172-minute version can be downloaded online ... so I am sure some people will prefer this to going to the cinema," said movie fan Kong Kong, 27, who lives in Shanghai.
Chinese citizens have recently been become more outspoken, especially on social media, with complaints about censorship of imported films as well as the home-grown movie industry and news media. Awkward cuts by the censors to the most recent James Bond offering "Skyfall" — which opened here Monday — prompted calls for a review of the film censorship system.
"Even these kinds of movies are getting censored, for what?" wrote Wei Xinhong, deputy editor in chief at Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing Bureau, on his Twitter-like Sina Weibo. "What kind of era do we live in today! Still want to control people's minds?"
He said he was left confused after watching China's version of the 007 movie, which deleted a bloody scene showing a French hitman killing a Chinese security guard. It also changed the subtitles of Bond's conversation with a young woman about her past — references to her as a prostitute as a teenager morphed into a discussion of her membership in the mafia.
The "Cloud Atlas" filmmakers say they are confident their movie will retain its "integrity" despite being 38 minutes lighter.
Executive producer Philip Lee said Thursday that the filmmakers knew they would have to "follow the censorship requirements" to have the movie shown in China. He said he hadn't yet seen the censored version that will come out next week, but that he was confident that the Chinese distributer, Dreams of Dragon Pictures, had made the right changes.
"We have very strong belief in our partner Dreams of the Dragon Pictures," Le said. "They have been extremely helpful and collaborative and I am sure they will protect the integrity of the film makers, our creativity and vision."
A woman surnamed Su in charge of propaganda for Dreams of the Dragon Pictures refused to comment Thursday. Phone calls to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television rang unanswered.