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Cinema Approaching Reality

Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Cinema Approaching Reality
    Book Description:

    InCinema Approaching Reality,Victor Fan brings together, for the first time, Chinese and Euro-American film theories and theorists to engage in critical debates about film in Shanghai and Hong Kong from the 1920s through 1940s. His point of departure is a term popularly employed by Chinese film critics during this period,bizhen, often translated as "lifelike" but best understood as "approaching reality." What these Chinese theorists mean, in Fan's reading, is that the cinematographic image is not a form of total reality, but it can allow spectators to apprehend an effect as though they had been there at the time when an event actually happened.

    Fan suggests that the phrase "approaching reality" can help to renegotiate an aporia (blind spot) that influential French film critic André Bazin wrestled with: the cinematographic image is a trace of reality, yet reality is absent in the cinematographic image, and the cinema makes present this absence as it reactivates the passage of time. Fan enriches Bazinian cinematic ontology with discussions on cinematic reality in Republican China and colonial Hong Kong, putting Western theorists-from Bazin and Kracauer to Baudrillard, Agamben, and Deleuze-into dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. The result is an eye-opening exploration of the potentialities in approaching cinema anew, especially in the photographic materiality following its digital turn.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4405-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-16)

    Euro-American film theories have for many years been treated as a lingua franca in the field of cinema studies. Even countries like the People’s Republic of China (PRC), where scholars have made deliberate efforts to recenter the discourse on film theory around the work of Chinese filmmakers, writers, and intellectuals, an alternative perspective can be hard to achieve. As many film theorists and historians who work in China and other parts of East Asia were trained in Europe and North America or are well acquainted with “Western” methodologies, key concepts in Euro-American film theories still form the underlying assumptions in...

  6. 1 APPROACHING REALITY Chinese Ontology and the Potentiality of Time
    (pp. 17-42)

    In recent years, film scholars have become increasingly interested in setting up a dialogue between Bazinian ontology and a similar line of discussion among the Shanghai filmmakers in the 1920s. The desire to open up a comparative space in cinema ontology is motivated by a growing interest in theoretical traditions outside the Euro-American canon, and by a hope to find inspirations for reconfiguring established notions of cinema ontology in response to the digital image. Yet, how one conducts such a dialogue and to what end one does so are precarious problems. Searching for a conceptual alternative in a discourse outside...

  7. 2 CINEMA OF THOUGHT Directed Consciousness in Chinese Marxist Film Theory
    (pp. 43-74)

    In the 1930s, the version of approaching reality proposed by Gu Kenfu and Hou Yao was seriously challenged by a group of filmmakers and critics who began to employ Marxist vocabulary to reexamine both Chinese and Hollywood cinemas. For these emerging “left-wing” critics, films and their criticisms from the previous generation were not only shaped by the semicolonial conditions of Shanghai, but also engaged in the perpetuation and active construction of a political consciousness, that only capitalism, imperialism, and feudalism could continue to guarantee their spectators’ material pleasure and political survival.¹ More importantly, these new critics believed that the film...

  8. 3 SOFT FILM THEORY Life in All Its Presence and Concreteness
    (pp. 75-108)

    What is life? This question emerges in the two discourses on cinematographic reality I have examined thus far: Hou Yao and Gu Kenfu’s discussion on approaching reality in the 1920s, and the Marxist film critics’ debate on cinema’s directed consciousness in the 1930s. Both debates, via their respective trails, converge on one idea: that the spectator, once called into the temporal distance between the day-to-day sense of chronometric time and a nonstate in which time is about to become inoperative. In this nonstate, life in all its presence and concreteness will manifest itself. Yet, this life, which is made palpable...

  9. 4 FEY MOU The Presence of an Absence
    (pp. 109-152)

    No book on Chinese film criticism before 1949 can be considered complete without a serious discussion on the theory of Fei Mu (Fey Mou, 1906–51). Fey was born in Shanghai in ashuxiang shijia(a family filled with fragrance of books) in 1906, and moved with his parents to Beijing (Peking) when he was ten years old. His family cultivated in him a strong sense of Confucian social order, ethical values, and personal responsibility, while his French-language schooling nurtured in him an equally tenacious attraction to creative freedom, aesthetic sensation, and human rationality. In 1930, he joined the North...

  10. 5 CINEMA OF IDEATION, CINEMA OF PLAY The Early Cantonese Sound Film
    (pp. 153-194)

    Consolidating and mapping out the theoretical discourse on the Hong Kong Cantonese sound films produced between 1930 and 1949 can be a thorny task. One set of difficulties is related to the cinema’s overt theatricality. Since its emergence in 1930, the Hong Kong Cantonese sound film was considered azhengyou(zangjau) of the Yueju (Jyutkek or Cantonese theater). The termzangjaumeans companions who are so intimate that they are not afraid to offer straightforward advice to one another. Yet, it also indicates that the two art forms were regarded astongchu yichuang(tungceot jatcoengor coming out of the...

    (pp. 195-222)

    Film theory is not exclusively a Western practice and the task of rethinking film theory as a global discourse is not simply a matter of adding more works from other parts of the world to the Euro-American canon. As the previous chapters demonstrated, filmmakers, critics, and intellectuals in Shanghai and Hong Kong between the 1920s and 1940s participated actively in the global discourse on film theory and criticism. Yet their participation in the inter- or intraregional circulation of knowledge and intellectual concepts often took the form of unrequited love. No doubt, these Chinese writers imagined themselves conversing with their Euro-American...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 223-252)
    (pp. 253-256)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 257-277)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 278-278)