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Fiery Cinema

Fiery Cinema: The Emergence of an Affective Medium in China, 1915–1945

Series: A Quadrant Book
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Fiery Cinema
    Book Description:

    What was cinema in modern China? It was, this book tells us, a dynamic entity, not strictly tied to one media technology, one mode of operation, or one system of aesthetic code. It was, in Weihong Bao's term, an affective medium, a distinct notion of the medium as mediating environment with the power to stir passions, frame perception, and mold experience. InFiery Cinema,Bao traces the permutations of this affective medium from the early through the mid-twentieth century, exploring its role in aesthetics, politics, and social institutions.

    Mapping the changing identity of cinema in China in relation to Republican-era print media, theatrical performance, radio broadcasting, television, and architecture, Bao has created an archaeology of Chinese media culture. Within this context, she grounds the question of spectatorial affect and media technology in China's experience of mechanized warfare, colonial modernity, and the shaping of the public into consumers, national citizens, and a revolutionary collective subject. Carrying on a close conversation with transnational media theory and history, she teases out the tension and affinity between vernacular, political modernist, and propagandistic articulations of mass culture in China's varied participation in modernity.

    Fiery Cinemaadvances a radical rethinking of affect and medium as a key insight into the relationship of cinema to the public sphere and the making of the masses. By centering media politics in her inquiry of the forgotten future of cinema, Bao makes a major intervention into the theory and history of media.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4367-1
    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])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    On January 27, 1940, at the Weiyi Theater in Chongqing, the wartime capital of Nationalist China, the public crowded into one of the best theaters in the city for the afternoon screening ofMulan congjun(Mulan Joins the Army, 1939). Directed by veteran filmmaker Bu Wancang, the film had already become a sensation in Shanghai, where it was made, as well as in Nanjing and Hong Kong. The adaptation of the widely circulated folktale of Mulan served as a star vehicle for Hong Kong actress Chen Yunshang, whose vivacious presence complemented the film’s dramatic narrative, comic relief, and allegorical reference...

  4. Part I. Resonance

    • 1 Fiery Action: Toward an Aesthetics of New Heroism
      (pp. 39-90)

      Between 1927 and 1931, the rise of fiery films (huoshao pian) made a phenomenal impression on the Chinese cultural scene as a major subgenre of the burgeoning martial arts film.¹ The sweeping success ofThe Burning of the Red Lotus Temple(Huoshao hongliansi, 1928), by Mingxing Studio, was followed not only by its seventeen sequels (between 1928 and 1931) but also by more than forty other fiery films, all with titles beginning withburning. Examples includeThe Burning of the Green Dragon Temple(Huohao qinglongsi, Ren Yutian, 1929);The Burning of the Nine-Dragons Mountain(Huoshao jiulongshan, Zhu Shouju, 1929);The...

    • 2 A Culture of Resonance: Hypnotism, Wireless Cinema, and the Invention of Intermedial Spectatorship
      (pp. 91-150)

      It was New Year’s Eve 1927. Lu Mengshu, the editor in chief of the major film journalYingxing, had just finished editing an anthology of film criticism,Film, Literature, and Art. He concluded the book with an optimistic observation:

      The electric fire [dianhuo] above is beaming. The charcoal in the hearth is blazing, filling the whole room with radiant light and warmth. The plaster statue of the Muse also greets me with a gentle smile. Sounds of firecrackers remind me that this is the morning of the seventeenth New Year of the Republic of China. I cannot help throwing away...

  5. Part II. Transparency

    • 3 Dances of Fire: Mediating Affective Immediacy
      (pp. 153-196)

      Writing in the spring of 1933, in the aftermath of two recent incidents—the Japanese takeover of Manchuria on September 18, 1931, and the bombing of Shanghai on January 28, 1932—veteran film director Cheng Bugao captured the sensorial shocks of the war as the dramatic backdrop for the making of his filmKuangliu(Torrent, 1933).¹ The film was a collaboration with left-wing playwright and film critic Xia Yan and Zheng Boqi, who translated Pudovkin’sKino-rezhisser i kino-material(Film Director and Film Material) into Chinese and appended the film script as an illustration of their putting montage theory into practice....

    • 4 Transparent Shanghai: Cinema, Architecture, and a Left-Wing Culture of Glass
      (pp. 197-262)

      In 1933 Chinese artist and essayist Feng Zikai (1888–1975) wrote a brief essay entitled “Glass Architecture,” published in the modernist literary journalXiandai(Les contemporains).¹ Having recently read some of German architectural visionary Paul Scheerbart’s writings on the subject via Japanese translation, Feng contemplates the impact on human life of this architectural revolution.² For Feng, as much as for Scheerbart, architecture provides the immediate and essential living environment from which culture arises. To create a new culture, then, one needs to foster an altered architectural environment. Glass became the prime component because its transparent walls and ceilings eradicate the...

  6. Part III. Agitation

    • 5 “A Vibrating Art in the Air”: The Infinite Cinema and the Media Ensemble of Propaganda
      (pp. 265-316)

      In 1941 a curious essay entitled “The Infinite Cinema” appeared inDianying jishibao(The Movie Chronicle), which was based in Chongqing, China’s Nationalist capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War.¹ In the article the author, Li Lishui, portrays the history of art along a spiral logic of dialectical development. When it comes to cinema, however, Li puts this trajectory on hold.

      Li conceives cinema as an infinite medium transcending the limit of every earlier medium as well as any later art. This is because cinema contains a special “energy” (neng) that radiates in time and space and can then be “broadcasted”...

    • 6 Baptism by Fire: Atmospheric War, Agitation, and a Tale of Three Cities
      (pp. 317-374)

      In late August 1940, the third summer after the Guomindang(GMD) government relocated from the coastal city of Nanjing to the hinterland city of Chongqing farther up the Yangtze River, Chongqing was still the world’s most-bombed city (the London blitz started in September of the same year) (Figure 6.1). American writer Graham Peck visited the wartime capital and later recounted his jarring experiences. He joined a farewell party with a number of Americans at the Chongqing Club, where people watched home movies made by the guest of honor:

      After the customary false starts and homely joke, the screen flickered into enough...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 375-380)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 381-452)
  9. Filmography
    (pp. 453-460)
  10. Index
    (pp. 461-479)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 480-480)