TAIPEI, Taiwan — Jay Chou wasn't afraid to spend money to make his new film, "The Rooftop," into a work of art. Nor is the Taiwanese superstar afraid of addressing criticism of his acting, something for which he has been berated ever since 2007's "Secret."

In his second directorial effort, he says he's more open now and acting has become more natural for him.

"I opened up more, so people could get the feeling that this character isn't the Jay Chou that most people are familiar with. If I played Jay Chou, I would only have one expression from the beginning to the end," he joked. "For this movie, I think I was able to open up and act more freely."

Art and stylistic direction was important in "The Rooftop." The film was made for about $10 million — expensive in the Taiwanese film industry — and Chou didn't set a budget for costumes and the set, which was filled with whimsical, retro elements inspired from the 1970s.

"Sometimes I have my own thoughts on creativity, and I'll say, 'Could we change the setting for this particular scene?' A suggestion like this could cost millions in a movie like this. But then I tell people, 'Just look at these three to four seconds, this really beautiful scene will stay with you forever," he said.

The movie, set like a musical, describes the clashes between the poor-but-carefree youths who live on rooftops and the wealthy elite who live in the homes below. The female lead is played by 22-year old Li Xinai, a model who had no acting experience before "The Rooftop."

Admittedly nervous when she first met the famous Chou, Li said that she later found him very down-to-earth.

"In the past, to me Jay Chou was a superstar, a pop icon. There was such a huge distance between us that I never could have imagined working with him or anything. When we worked together finally, I realized he treated everyone very well. He is very down-to-earth," she said.

Chou, a 34-year-old who's also had pop success, composed the music for the film. Chou's films as an actor include Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower" and the Hollywood superhero film, "The Green Hornet."

"The Rooftop" opened Thursday in Taiwan, China and Singapore.