A photograph of a spontaneous moment at the Venice Film Festival that caught Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi in a wide-mouth smile of shock and surprise is being hotly debated by China’s netizens.
The picture shows a glamorous and radiant Zhang, wearing a billowing, strapless evening gown reacting as the festival president, Marco Muller, kowtows to her on bended knee.
"Why Marco Muller knelt in front of Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi" is the opening line of the on-line debate in China, with many writing that it was a joke.
The picture of Muller and the young Chinese star was taken at a photo-op at a reception promoting the premiere of "The Banquet." The photograph made front page of Tuesday’s China Daily and spread in a flash across the Internet.
Tens of thousands of messages were found in different online forums commenting on this subject. Some applauded it as a salute to Zhang, but most of others jeered.
"When I first saw it, I thought that Mr. Muller might have just slipped and photographers had made a fuss about it," said a web user nicknamed "peipei".
An online survey posted on Netease, a portal website in China, showed that 54 percent of the 5,541 votes thought Muller was kneeling down to look for his glasses.
Fifteen percent considered Muller could not keep his legs because he is a bit tipsy following a banquet for the "The Banquet". Ten percent thought he was trying to steal the scene. Only about 20 percent agreed that it was a real kowtow to the reigning queen of Chinese cinema.
A web user named "slow life" said it was a clever promotional stunt to hype the film. The Banquet, a loose adaptation of "Hamlet", depicts royal conflicts in the 10th century China and features Zhang as a revengeful empress.
"He was just mocking a rite of the traditional court as shown in the film. He even slurred in Chinese ‘Welcome the empress,’ wrote one web writer.
A blogger named Ma shanji said that foreigners have a different sense of humor from Chinese. "This is how a foreigner learns to show compliment to China’s traditional culture in a humorous way."
Though some commented positively on Zhang, saying Muller’s action an honor to her, a lot still poured scorn on her rising popularity.
Zhang, born in Beijing, first gained fame in director Zhang Yimou’s film "My father and mother" and then internationally acclaimed for her roles in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Hero", "House of Flying Daggers", "2046" and "Memoirs of a Geisha".