China censors cut 'Cloud Atlas' by 40 minutes: media

Posted at 01/24/2013 11:25 AM

BEIJING, China - Chinese authorities cut 40 minutes from the US-German epic movie "Cloud Atlas", state-run media said Wednesday after its domestic premiere -- almost a quarter of the film.

The reports came soon after deletions from the latest James Bond movie "Skyfall", released this week in China, prompted public frustration and even oblique criticism in official media.

"Cloud Atlas" ran for 172 minutes in the original version, but by the time China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) had finished its work, it was little more than two hours long.

"It sucks, really," one of the co-directors Lana Wachowski was quoted as saying by china.org.cn, a website under the information department of the State Council, China's cabinet. "But I believe you can watch the full version online."

Piracy is common in China and the site said the full version had already been downloaded "millions of times" before the shortened take's debut in the country, adding that the reported cuts were "horrifying".

"The 'Cloud Atlas' showing in China is about 130 minutes, with nearly 40 minutes deleted," said the Xiaoxiang Morning Post, based in the central province of Hunan.

Some deleted scenes included nudity, it said, while Zhejiang province's Today Morning Express listed other removals that it said weakened the theme or confused the plot.

The film -- which will hit cinemas in China next week after opening in the US in October -- was already said to have a complicated narrative.

It interweaves six story lines spanning several centuries, from "an 1849 diary of an ocean voyage across the Pacific" to "a rebellious clone in futuristic Korea", according to the movie website IMDb.

SARFT officials could not be reached for comment.

The film was shot in Germany and distributed by US giant Warner Bros.

Rules governing censorship in China are opaque and reasons are not given for why cuts are made. Few films escape the censors unscathed, unless they offer a particularly flattering depiction of Chinese people.

China imposes strict rules over what films can be seen by the public, banning what it considers any negative portrayal of contemporary politics or issues seen as potentially leading to social unrest.

There was no direct criticism of the "Skyfall" cuts in state media, but the official Xinhua news agency said they had prompted calls for reform in the way films are censored.

After years of pressure, China last year agreed to increase the annual number of imported films from 20 to 34, in a year when 893 films were produced domestically.

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