While The Golden Era has ranked among the most discussed films online this month, its box-office performance has been less than glittering.
Hong Kong director Ann Hui's three-hour docudrama about Xiao Hong, a woman writer who died 72 years ago, features 30 A-listers including Tang Wei as the lead, bold sex scenes and refined production.
It has grossed only 30 million yuan (S$6 million) since its premiere on Oct 1, the first day of the weeklong National Day holiday.
This may be because of a less-than-dramatic storyline and heavy reliance upon narration by actors who speak directly to the camera.
Ning Hao's comedy Breakup Buddies claimed 700 million yuan, and Taiwan action thriller Black and White II raked in more than 146 million yuan.
Hui, who's known for art-house films like A Simple Life and The Way We Are, anticipated such numbers. She says she didn't research China's mainstream filmgoers before starting the project.
She doesn't believe the film's length is a problem.
"Many good films are longer," she said at the premiere.
The Golden Era has been an unconventional project from the outset. It tells the story of Xiao Hong, a woman writer known for depictions of hunger and poverty in China during the 1920s and '30s. Hui compares her works with those of Emily Bronte, who also focuses on unpleasant realities.
Xiao Hong isn't well-known among today's youth, despite being a leading figure during her time. Hui believes her story reveals a brilliant period when writers believed in the power of words against war and turmoil.
The promotional poster reads: "Live the way you like. Love the way you like. And curse the way you like. Everything is free."