A director’s cut of Jia Zhangke’s latest movie, Ash is Purest White (江湖儿女 jiānghú érnǚ), was released in China last Friday that was six minutes shorter than the version that played at Cannes in May. While the movie’s investors haves said the cuts improve the flow of the storytelling, there are suspicions, according to Variety, that the edits were made because of Fan Bingbing’s tax evasion scandal.
Mtime has reported that the cuts made to Ash is Purest White were targeted toward scenes with Chinese director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚. Feng had a small cameo role as a doctor, but in the theatrical version screened in China, all of his sequences have been cut. Only a scene showing Feng’s hands, but not his face, was spared.
Speculation is that Feng was cut due to his close relationship with Chinese actress Fan Bingbing 范冰冰, who is currently embroiled in a tax evasion scandal. Months ago, TV host Cui Yongyuan 崔永元 accused Fan of using dual contracts in her work, essentially an official contract and an unofficial one that’s off the books. His accusations have led to an industry-wide investigation of tax evasion, with Fan at the epicenter. Feng himself, like Fan Bingbing, has been accused of tax dodging, and has rebuked these charges vehemently on social media. Earlier this month, Feng posted on Weibo that he has never engaged in tax evasion practices and has never signed a dual contract, or a “yin-yang contract.”
Jia has been oblique in his responses when asked about the cuts made to Ash is Purest White. According to reports by Mtime, he only said, “It’s complicated,” when asked about Feng’s absence from his film. The two directors, however, seem to share a good rapport, as Jia reposted Feng’s Weibo post denying the tax evasion allegations against him and captioned the repost with words of support, commending Feng for his hard work in the industry and the movies he’s made over the years.