Even if his fans and detractors universally acknowledge that he’s more or less a douchy hack of a producer and scriptwriter, Yu Zheng is probably having the last laugh right and counting his dough all the way to the bank. His just finished airing C-drama Legend of Lu Zhen was a smash hit thanks to the youthful vitality, natural good looks, and undeniable chemistry of its two leads Chen Xiao and Zhao Li Ying. And both can more or less act, not exactly budding thespians but at least a good level above the usual horrifying and ugly duds such as Mickey He or Yuan Shan Shan found lurching around a Yu Zheng drama. Either he was onto something or the man has got luck aplenty, because while fans have been clamoring for another reunion project with Chen Xiao and Zhao Li Ying, Yu Zheng’s about to release his first movie into the big screen on August 13th that just happens to star those two. Talk about striking while the iron is hot, though this movie filmed some time ago and the leading lady is actually not Zhao Li Ying but instead C-movie actress Zhou Dong Yu, herself a rising ingenue who was plucked from obscurity by famed C-director Zhang Yimou for his 2010 movie Love Under the Hawthorne Tree.
In the upcoming movie The Palace, its the third project from Yu Zheng’s palace line of works, the first being 2010’s Palace/Gong (Jade Palace Lock Heart) with Yang Mi and Feng Shao Feng, the second being Palace II with Mickey He, Yuan Shan Shan, and Du Chun, and now this third story will be moved to the big screen (title is 宫锁沉香 in Chinese). Zhou Dong Yu plays the protagonist, a young court maid that meets her kindred spirit in the Palace in Zhao Li Ying’s also fresh-faced newly arrived court maid. The two best friends’ lives take a diverging path as Zhao Li Ying’s ambition pushes her to seduce the 9th Prince play by Zhu Zi Xiao (Peer Zhu) as well as the male lead 13th Prince played by Chen Xiao, who has a love triangle with both girls. It’s going to be weird seeing Zhao Li Ying go from Candy extraordinaire in Legend of Lu Zhen into playing a conniving femme fatale but I really love her more for taking on this role and challenging her range. I’m also amused that with the recent deluge of romance novel-esque re-tellings of Qing dynasty Palace love triangles and intrigue through the Gong dramas, Bu Bu Jing Xin, Legend of Zhen Huan, et. al., there is an entire generation (and world) who is meeting Emperor Kangxi and all his prince sons through a very lovelorn light. I’m fairy certain the real princes were not dashing budding suitors to say the least. But heck, I take this as fluff and from the looks of the official stills and trailer it looks like relatively pretty fluff that’s worth a watch.
Trailer for The Palace: