Chinese Women's Cinema

Chinese Women's Cinema: Transnational Contexts

Edited by Lingzhen Wang
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/wang15674
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    Chinese Women's Cinema
    Book Description:

    The first of its kind in English, this collection explores twenty one well established and lesser known female filmmakers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora. Sixteen scholars illuminate these filmmakers' negotiations of local and global politics, cinematic representation, and issues of gender and sexuality, covering works from the 1920s to the present. Writing from the disciplines of Asian, women's, film, and auteur studies, contributors reclaim the work of Esther Eng, Tang Shu Shuen, Dong Kena, and Sylvia Chang, among others, who have transformed Chinese cinematic modernity.

    Chinese Women's Cinema is a unique, transcultural, interdisciplinary conversation on authorship, feminist cinema, transnational gender, and cinematic agency and representation. Lingzhen Wang's comprehensive introduction recounts the history and limitations of established feminist film theory, particularly its relationship with female cinematic authorship and agency. She also reviews critiques of classical feminist film theory, along with recent developments in feminist practice, altogether remapping feminist film discourse within transnational and interdisciplinary contexts. Wang's subsequent redefinition of women's cinema, and brief history of women's cinematic practices in modern China, encourage the reader to reposition gender and cinema within a transnational feminist configuration, such that power and knowledge are reexamined among and across cultures and nation-states.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52744-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: TRANSNATIONAL FEMINIST RECONFIGURATION OF FILM DISCOURSE AND WOMEN’S CINEMA
    (pp. 1-44)
    LINGZHEN WANG

    This anthology centers on Chinese women filmmakers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora from the 1920s to 2007. It studies twenty-five women filmmakers, while offering critical comments on many others. The sixteen contributors provide critical insights and interdisciplinary dialogues to this volume, which is the first dedicated to Chinese female filmmakers and their films. Foregrounding Chinese women’s complex negotiations with global and local politics, cinematic representation, and issues related to gender and sexuality, the anthology aims to reassess and revise theoretical, political, and academic frameworks for transnational feminist research on women and cinema.

    Three issues are...

  5. PART I: FEMALE AUTHORSHIP NEGOTIATED IN DIFFERENT TIMES, SPACES, AND GENRES
    • 1 Socialist Cinema and Female Authorship: OVERDETERMINATION AND SUBJECTIVE REVISIONS IN DONG KENA’S SMALL GRASS GROWS ON THE KUNLUN MOUNTAIN (1962)
      (pp. 47-65)
      LINGZHEN WANG

      Despite their lack of experience in directing films, Wang Ping, Wang Shaoyan, and Dong Kena, the three best-known female directors in 1950s’ and 1960s’ mainland China, all became film directors with the institutional endorsement of state film studios such as August First Film Studio and Beijing Film Studio. Given the extremely limited alternatives in the early socialist film industry, state sponsorship—as well as the institutional and moral support these women received after the Chinese Communist Party assumed power—was critical to their success as the first group of female directors in modern China. The entrance of Chinese women into...

    • 2 Masochist Men and Normal Women: TANG SHU SHUEN AND THE ARCH (1969)
      (pp. 66-87)
      YAU CHING

      Tang shu shuen was one of the very few woman directors working in Hong Kong cinema in the 1970s and in Chinese cinemas before the 1980s.² In what ways do her films address this special position of hers, explore, and/or challenge the gendered conditions of her times? What are the implications of the strategies found in her films and media representations of her that might further our understanding of feminist politics specific to the cultural-historical context of Hong Kong? This chapter explores these questions, focusing on Tang’s debut work Dong furen (The Arch, 1969).

      Discussion of Tang’s work tends to...

    • 3 Migrating Hearts: THE CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY OF SYLVIA CHANG’S MELODRAMA
      (pp. 88-110)
      ZHEN ZHANG

      Chinese film scholar Chen Feibao’s book, The Art of Taiwan Directors, has the chapters on Ang Lee and Sylvia Chang back to back.¹ This arrangement occurred simply because the two were born just one year apart. However, the two have more in common beyond this age connection. Both came of age and embraced cinema as their creative medium in the burgeoning Taiwan New Cinema movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, and both have actively pursued a career beyond Taiwan, with Lee shuttling between the island and the United States and Chang operating between Taiwan and Hong Kong (and occasionally...

  6. PART II: GENDERED VOICES:: IMAGES AND AFFECT
    • 4 The Voice of History and the Voice of Women: A STUDY OF HUANG SHUQIN’S WOMEN’S FILMS
      (pp. 113-131)
      XINGYANG LI

      Many consider Huang Shuqin to be one of the first female directors in China to be a self-aware possessor of women’s consciousness (nüxing yishi), and one critic has praised Huang’s Ren, gui, qing (Woman, Demon, Human, 1987) as contemporary China’s “sole film that can unequivocally be called a ‘women’s film.’”¹ Among some dozen films directed by Huang, six are about women: the feature films Qingchun wansui (Forever Young, 1983); Woman, Demon, Human; Hua hun (The Soul of the Painter, 1994), and Hei, Fulanke (Hey, Frank, 2001), and the made-for-television movies Hongfen (Rouge, 1994) and Cun ji (The Village Whore, 2000),...

    • 5 Post–Taiwan New Cinema Women Directors and Their Films: AUTEURS, IMAGES, LANGUAGE
      (pp. 132-153)
      YU-SHAN HUANG and CHUN-CHI WANG

      Participation by women directors in Taiwanese cinema began during the era of Taiwanese (Hokkienese)-language cinema, which was launched by (male) director Ho Chi-ming’s Xue Pinggui yu Wang Baochuan (Xue Pinggui and Wang Baochuan, 1956), a thirty-five millimeter film adaptation of the Taiwanese opera (koa-a-hi, in Mandarin gezaixi). During the post-War period, many mainland filmmakers followed the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) to Taiwan; Mandarin-language films could not initially be produced, while Taiwanese directors who had worked under Japanese occupation and studied in Japan had relatively more creative freedom. The popularity of Taiwanese-language film helped woman filmmaker Ch’en Wen-min gain prominence by...

    • 6 Affect, Memory, and Trauma Past Tense: HU MEI’S ARMY NURSE (1985) AND XU JINGLEI’S LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (2004)
      (pp. 154-170)
      E. ANN KAPLAN

      In recent years, interest in affect has increased in humanities research and has found its way into cinema studies. Walter Benjamin, sensitive to the modernist shocks of new cinema technology, implicitly recognized issues of affect as linked to time and technological medium that are a main focus of this chapter.¹ His insights, however, were for a long time marginalized by cinema studies’ methods, which focused on somewhat limited psychoanalytic and ideological readings of film, and on interest in how viewers negotiated meanings. In the period since Benjamin wrote, the role of affect in the public sphere has expanded. As Brian...

  7. PART III: THE VISUAL SUBJECT AND FEMINIST CINEMA
    • 7 The Encoding of Female Subjectivity: FOUR FILMS BY CHINA’S FIFTH-GENERATION WOMEN DIRECTORS
      (pp. 173-190)
      S. LOUISA WEI

      I remember the experience of watching Hu Mei’s Nüer lou (Army Nurse, 1985) as a teenager; I felt very touched and immediately identified with the protagonist, who was my age at the beginning of the movie. I did not know how to express my feelings then, but I knew the film was very “different.” In my early twenties, I was exposed to feminist theories in Canada, first as a masters student in comparative literature and then as a PhD student in film studies. Excited and inspired by feminist film theorists’ dynamic readings of Hollywood’s “women’s films” and experimental films that...

    • 8 From Mao’s “Continuous Revolution” to Ning Ying’s Perpetual Motion (2005): SEXUAL POLITICS, NEOLIBERALISM, AND POSTMODERN CHINA
      (pp. 191-212)
      GINA MARCHETTI

      Sixty years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a generation of women, who grew up with Mao Zedong and revolutionary “new” China, reached middle age. Coming of age during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) and crafting their adult identities in a dramatically different post-Mao cultural landscape, these women “of a certain age” find themselves positioned between old notions of the Chinese “new” woman and new conceptions of “success” for women within an increasingly cosmopolitan, globalized, neoliberal Chinese present. In Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture, Lisa Rofel describes this ideological shift...

    • 9 Searching for Female Sexuality and Negotiating with Feminism: LI YU’S FILM TRILOGY
      (pp. 213-232)
      SHUQIN CUI

      The history of filmmaking in China does not lack women’s films or female directors. But woman’s cinema—marked by female subjectivity, perspective, and aesthetics—remains ambivalent, a result of the paradox that woman as gendered subject and discursive mode remains subordinated to mainstream rhetoric. In the domain of socialist politics, individual interests yield to national ideologies and class categories overpower gender difference, so the female body recedes behind a collective identity as her screen image becomes a social-political signifier. Works such as Hongse nianzijun (The Red Detachment of Women, 1961) and Baimao nü (The White Haired Girl, 1950) exemplify how...

  8. PART IV: FEMALE WRITING, PERFORMANCE, AND ISSUES OF CINEMATIC AGENCY
    • 10 To Write or to Act, That Is the Question: 1920S TO 1930S SHANGHAI ACTRESS-WRITERS AND THE DEATH OF THE “NEW WOMAN”
      (pp. 235-254)
      YIMAN WANG

      Women scriptwriters in early cinema are conventionally seen as pioneering figures who ventured beyond acting, exercising their authorship, thereby potentially more effectively shaping the early Chinese film industry. This perception, self-evident as it may seem, categorically privileges writing over acting and fails to examine the specific circumstances and ramifications of women writing versus acting at the embryonic stage of filmmaking. In this essay, I focus on two Chinese female actresses from 1920s’ and 1930s’ Shanghai, Yang Naimei (1904 to 1960) and Ai Xia (1912 to 1934), each of whom wrote a script and played the female lead. Whereas the films...

    • 11 Gender, Genre, and Performance in Eileen Chang’s Films: EQUIVOCAL CONTRASTS ACROSS THE PRINT-SCREEN DIVIDE
      (pp. 255-273)
      YINGJIN ZHANG

      Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing, 1920–1995) envisioned a dismal world in 1947: “On the future wasteland, among ruined walls and debris, only a woman like huadan from the bengbeng theater can survive with resolution, for she alone feels at home everywhere, in any age and any society.”¹ This vision contains threefold insight. First, as a recurring motif, performance is productive in Eileen Chang’s entire writing career, from her overnight rise to fame in Japanese-occupied Shanghai to her solitary self-confinement in post–Cold War Los Angeles. Second, as a distinctive gender choice, Chang’s preference for female performance is resilient and adaptable...

    • 12 Chu T’ien-wen and the Sotto Voce of Gendered Expression in the Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien
      (pp. 274-292)
      CHRISTOPHER LUPKE

      The auteur Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien (b. 1947) has emerged as one of the most sustained creative forces in (greater) contemporary Chinese cinema. That he continues to break new ground through unremitting exploration and experimentation is substantiated by the voluminous scholarship on him in Chinese, English, and Japanese. Two aspects of the Hou phenomenon receive somewhat less attention: one is his early work; the other is the nature of his collaboration with other intellectuals in the filmmaking process. Scholars and serious film aficionados alike know that there are profound elements of collaboration in the creation of his art from the...

    • 13 To Become an Auteur: THE CINEMATIC MANEUVERINGS OF XU JINGLEI
      (pp. 293-310)
      JINGYUAN ZHANG

      Quite a few recent Chinese film directors share the ambition of becoming a recognized art film “auteur” (zuozhe daoyan), despite the fact that art films, in general, do not do well at the box office. For Fifth Generation film directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, success in art films has led to internationally funded and commercially successful blockbusters (da pian). Some successful Sixth Generation and later film directors, such as Jia Zhangke, Gu Changwei, and Jiang Wen, are still making art films, which normally have no government funding or affiliation with government studios. Of the few women feature film directors...

  9. PART V: MIGRATION, DIASPORA, AND TRANSCULTURAL PRACTICE OF GENDER AND CINEMA
    • 14 In Search of Esther Eng: BORDER-CROSSING PIONEER IN CHINESE-LANGUAGE FILMMAKING
      (pp. 313-329)
      KAR LAW

      In an August 1995 issue of the American entertainment news magazine, Variety, Todd McCarthy published an article titled “Eng’s Lost Pix, a Chinese Puzzle,” mentioning Esther Eng for the first time in recent memory.¹ Despite the recent surge of scholarship on issues such as identity and gender in Asian cinema, film historians seem to have forgotten this pioneer in Chinese-language filmmaking. More unfortunately, her films seem to have eluded film archives altogether. If Eng had worked in the film industry today, she could have easily been seen as a champion of transnational filmmaking, feminist filmmaking, or antiwar filmmaking. In many...

    • 15 Transpacific Waves in a Global Sea: MABEL CHEUNG YUEN-TING’S CINEMATIC ARCHIVE
      (pp. 330-346)
      STACI FORD

      In her films, as in her life, Cheung Yuen-ting (Zhang Wan-ting in Mandarin, Mabel Cheung in English) moves deftly between continents, cultures, and pasts, triangulating between Hong Kong, the United States, and the Chinese Mainland. I argue here that her films merit more scholarly attention as an archive of the interconnectedness of national/transnational histories, of shifts in gender scripts, and of various issues surrounding Hong Kong and Chinese diasporic identities/experiences. Cheung’s films offer a particular view of transpacific responses to and negotiations with globality in particularly salient moments. My assertion draws on and expands the notion of the archive as...

    • 16 Filming One’s Way Home: CLARA LAW’S LETTERS TO OZ
      (pp. 347-368)
      SHIAO-YING SHEN

      Australia is a young migrant nation.¹ A quick look into some of the classics of Australian cinema reveals the different waves of migrants. Australia’s first color film Jedda (1955) deals with the tension between whites and aborigines, between the McManns and Jedda, in the country’s Northern Territory.² Michael Powell’s They’re a Weird Mob (1966) portrays the arrival and assimilation of Nino Culotta, an Italian, into the Anglo-Celtic “mob” in Sydney.³ Clara Law’s Fu sheng (Floating Life, 1996) might not be as yet considered a classic in the Australian cinema canon, but it does focus on the toil and pain of...

  10. Filmography
    (pp. 369-376)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 377-384)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 385-410)
  13. Index
    (pp. 411-430)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 431-436)