Director Zhang Yimou on His New Film

In his latest film, "Under the Hawthorn Tree," Chinese director Zhang Yimou explores a story of young love in 1970s rural China. The movie, which opened the prestigious Pusan International Film Festival last week, features fresh-faced actors with no box-office track record.

When Chinese Realism Met European Abstraction

Long tear-shaped white forms—representing bitter gourds commonly used in Chinese cuisine—stand out against a background of impassioned dark-green brushstrokes. The late Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong called his 1998 work "Bitter Melon Homestead," and wrote: “This is blood. This is destiny … Bitter melons are not so bitter, since … I have fully tasted the bitterest of the bitterest.”

The Rise of China's Own Spielberg

As a director, Feng has become a strong draw on his own—an anomaly in Chinese entertainment, where movie stars usually make or break a film. Since his 1994 debut film, “Gone Forever With My Love”, he has made a dozen movies, each one shattering a record in China.

From Thailand's Rural Reaches to the Palme d'Or

In Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul tells the story of a man dying of kidney failure who is visited by the ghosts of his dead wife and long-lost son. He regards his suffering as karma for “killing too many communists”—a nod to the area’s deadly anticommunist military campaign from the 1960s to the 1980s. Shot in 16mm, the film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May, incorporates elements of magical realism, science fiction, and subtle social commentary to explore Thai identity and official government recognition of repressive policies. “It is about loss of memory [and the classic] cinema that I love,” says Weerasethakul.

With the Rise of Art Prizes, Everyone's a Winner

A decade ago, just a handful of awards conferred prestige on artists: the Turner Prize (for British art), the MacArthur (for creative genius in the U.S.), and the Archibald (for portraiture in Australia). But in recent years the number of contemporary-art prizes available has multiplied faster than new film festivals; in the last quarter of 2009 alone, at least a dozen new awards were launched in the U.S. and U.K. They are bankrolled by unfamiliar names like Abraaj, Sovereign, Pictet, and Pinchuk, as well as big, established brands like Hugo Boss, which offers a $100,000 prize in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum. And their mandates are diverse: the two-year-old, $95,000 Prix Pictet celebrates photography with an ecological message, while the $18,000 Cricket Art Prize, started last year by an Australian tycoon, honors works about his favorite sport.Fundamentally, the proliferation of new prizes marks a dramatic shift in how patrons of culture are choosing to support new art....

Leading the Global Fight Against the Flu

Dr. Margaret Chan is a veteran in the -infectious-disease wars. As Hong Kong's director of health, she faced down an avian-flu outbreak in 1997 and SARS in 2003. Now as director-general of the World Health Organization, she is leading the global battle to survive—and better understand—the H1N1 pandemic, just as a second wave of infection is about to hit the Northern Hemisphere. She recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Alexandra A. Seno in Hong Kong. Excerpts: ...

Color and Sparkle Help Brighten the Mood

Just in time to help beat back the global financial blues, style trendsetters are serving up some of the brightest ideas seen in years. At the recent New York Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs said, "What? Is all black going to help the economy?" His fall/winter 2009 clothes made their mark with sunshine yellows, hot pinks and bright greens. Even for a usually somber season, brands ranging from Christian Dior to Alexander McQueen offered visual (if not economic) stimulus with color and shimmer. "During these times, you need fashion with longevity, but you also need inspiration," says Fiona Marin, the designer behind the luxury accessories label Kotur, whose current collection includes clutches with crystal flowers and insects on metallic snakeskin.Real glitter is also in vogue. Louis Vuitton has been pushing its diamond jewelry line, and Chanel has been heavily promoting diamond rings, necklaces and bracelets—a line that, fittingly, first gained prominence during the Great Depression.

The Ingenue Grows Up

Like Meryl Streep, the Chinese-American actress Joan Chen keeps getting better roles as she ages.

Homegrown Luxe

Asia's elite have fueled the growth of Western high-end brands. Now, they are creating their own.

Beethoven Goes Digital

Classical music is making money again, thanks largely to online downloads. It's a great example of how the 'long tail' theory is changing an industry.

Beethoven Goes Digital

Classical music is making money again, thanks largely to online downloads. It's a great example of how the 'long tail' theory is changing an industry.

Water Shortages: Investment Opportunities?

The new oil may be water. According to Global Water Intelligence, a U.K. consultancy, by December total assets under management in water funds could hit a record $20 billion this year, a 53 percent increase from 12 months earlier. No wonder: since 2001, shares in glob-al water companies have gone up 150 percent, according to Thomson Financial. That compares with a 50 percent rise in international blue chips.The reason is simple: there is profit in scarcity. Buffeted by constant news of dying rivers, droughts and water shortages from China to Mexico, investors are increasingly aware that water is a threatened resource. With more and more governments handing public water systems over to the big multinationals like the U.K.'s Veolia Environnement and Thames Water, profits are rising. One of the top companies, France's Suez, saw global sales from its water unit increase 11.7 percent, helped by a 20.3 percent rise in revenue from China. These days, savvy asset-management companies have...

Jaycee Chan (Jackie's Son) Finds His Rhythm

Jaycee Chan was filled with apprehension. He was in a hotel room trying to film a love scene for his new movie, "The Drummer," and it wasn't going smoothly. "'Wah, with 50 people staring, how can I do the job right?' " he recalls thinking. He had already banished his famous father, Jackie, from the set; the action star was passing the time in the bar downstairs, singing karaoke. Eventually the younger Chan found his groove and aced the scene. "At first there was a lot of pressure," he says. "Now I don't care." But audiences will: Chan, 24, gives a mesmerizing performance in "The Drummer," in which he plays a crime boss's troubled son who is transformed by Zen drumming. "I think Jaycee is going to be a very, very good actor," says Hong Kong upstart Kenneth Bi, the film's director and writer. "He's got stuff going on."That's putting it mildly. This summer Chan stars in no fewer than three major Asian films. In addition to the independent "The Drummer"— scheduled to premiere at...

A Rare Look at 'China's Mona Lisa'

Even among the stuffy bureaucrats in Beijing, the Song dynasty ink-on-silk painting "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" has an affectionate nickname: "China's Mona Lisa." Though it's a landscape, not a portrait, "Qingming" has a mysterious allure that has captivated the popular imagination and spawned debate about its hidden meaning, much like da Vinci's fabled work. But unlike the "Mona Lisa," which is on view at the Louvre, "Qingming" has been seen only rarely by members of the public.Now's their big chance. The stunning 12th-century work by the court artist Zhang Zeduan is making its first appearance outside the mainland as the star attraction of "The Pride of China," an exhibit of 32 important paintings from Beijing's Palace Museum (through Aug. 11) marking the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese control. The five-meter-long "Qingming" scroll—named after the spring holiday for honoring ancestors—features more than 800 figures, 28 boats and 170 trees in a...

The Maestro of Mood

William Chang Suk-ping is a man of few words. The Hong Kong film-industry icon rarely gives interviews and is not keen on talking theory. But his images say plenty. Known throughout Asia as the undisputed maestro of mood, Chang will soon be heard around the world with "My Blueberry Nights," his latest project with director Wong Kar Wai, which opened the 60th annual Cannes Film Festival last week. In Wong's first English-language effort, Chang—who is credited as production designer, costume designer and editor—tells the story of passion and loneliness on a road trip across America through the sexy golden stubble on Jude Law's jaw line, Natalie Portman's uncomfortably short blue floral baby-doll dress and Norah Jones's ringlets of dark curls cascading from under a green knit cap. "[Wong] owes a lot to Chang Suk-ping's genius," says film critic Perry Lam Pei-li, who edits Muse, a Hong Kong arts magazine. "Like all the best production designers, he has a great eye for detail. He makes...