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Chinese director Lou Ye braves ban risk at Cannes

By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Chinese director Lou Ye brushed off fears he may face problems with the authorities when he returns home after showing his new film "Spring Fever" at the Cannes film festival.

The film, a graphic drama that deals with the taboo subject of homosexuality, was shot in secret after officials slapped a five-year banning order on Lou preventing him from making films following his last feature "Summer Palace."

That film, shown in Cannes in 2006, examined the protest movement that led to the brutal repression in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and earned Lou international acclaim as well as ostracism from the official world of Chinese cinema.

But speaking on Thursday after the press screening of "Spring Fever," he played down the furor that has surrounded both the film's subject matter and his problems with the powerful Chinese Film Office.

"I hope I'm the last director to be banned in China," he said in response to one of a series of questions about the banning order, the latest in a string of run-ins with authorities going back to earlier films like "Suzhou River," which was also shot in secret.

"I hope, nothing will happen when I get back to China. I am just a director making a film," he said. "'Don't be afraid of the cinema,' that's what I say to myself.

"But I don't think anything will happen. I don't think there will be any fallout. But in any case, I don't think about the future, I only think about the present," he said.

LOVE STORY

Shot in grey and somber tones, using hand-held cameras, "Spring Fever" tells the story of a woman who hires a man to spy on a passionate homosexual relationship her husband is involved in and the obsessive explosion of the affair that follows.

Lou said he saw the film as a love story rather than a story about homosexuality, which is regarded in China with deep disapproval by both the state and society in general.

"I didn't film homosexuality that much. I showed all kinds of complex relationships. I showed feelings, I showed love."

The raw and torrid sex scenes between the male lovers demanded bold performances from his leads, Qin Hao, Wei Wu and Chen Sicheng, but the actors praised the liberty Lou allowed them during the shooting.

"Cinema is cinema. Very often, when you are an actor, choices have to be made," said Chen Sicheng, who plays Luo Haitao, the man hired to investigate the clandestine affair.

"So you've got to decide what you got to do and this is what Lou Ye did, and I was delighted to work with him."

The booming pirate DVD market is likely to mean that the film will be seen by some people at least, despite official censors, a situation that Lou regarded with a kind of ironic philosophy.

"I'm not in favor of pirated DVDs. I don't like them," he said. "But as the Chinese public can only see the film that way, it's a bit absurd."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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