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Island on the Edge

Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After

Chris Berry
Feii Lu
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Island on the Edge
    Book Description:

    This is the first English-language anthology on the Taiwan New Cinema and its legacy. It is an exciting collection which covers all the major filmmakers from Hou Hsiao Hsien and Edward Yang to Ang Lee and more. Gathering a range of essays that analyze individual films produced since the advent of the Taiwan New Cinema in the early 1980s, it aims to complement Feii Lu's Taiwan Cinema: Politics, Economics, Aesthetics, translated by Chris Berry (Duke University Press and Hong Kong University Press, forthcoming). Taiwan and its internationally renowned cinema ar " on the edge" in more ways than one. For all of its history the island has been on the edge of larger geopolitical entities, subjected to invasions, migrations, incursions, and pressures. On the other hand, as one of the "Little Tiger" economies of Asia, it has been on the cutting edge of the Asian economic boom and of technological innovation; in recent years it has pioneered democratization of authoritarian regimes in East Asia.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-188-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Chris Berry and Feii Lu

    Taiwan and its internationally renowned cinema are “on the edge” in more ways than one. As we outline in this introduction, for all its history the island has been on the edge of larger geopolitical entities, and subjected to invasions, migrations, incursions, and pressures. As one of the “Little Tiger” economies of Asia, however, it has been on the cutting edge of the Asian economic boom and technological innovation, and in recent years it has pioneered democratization of authoritarian regimes in East Asia.

    Furthermore, for almost twenty years since the advent of the Taiwan New Cinema in the early 1980s,...

  5. 1 The Terrorizer and the Great Divide in Contemporary Taiwan’s Cultural Development
    (pp. 13-26)
    Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang

    David Harvey identifies the late 1970s as an epoch-breaking moment when the condition of postmodernity assumed prominence, and a key factor was the extension of production to non-Western locations, including East Asia.¹ Many scholars have since tacitly adopted the same analytical scheme, including its time frame, in their studies of cultural phenomena occurring on the “other side.” This seems problematic. Whether or not one chooses to employ the modernity/postmodernity model as a major frame of reference, I would argue it is more justifiable to locate the Great Divide within the historical context of contemporary Taiwan at a point when verifiable...

  6. 2 Reflections on the Screen: Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Dust In the Wind and the Rhythms of the Taiwan New Cinema
    (pp. 27-38)
    Haden Guest

    Hou Hsiao Hsien’s seventh feature film, Dust in the Wind (1986, Central Motion Picture Corporation), marks a crucial yet rarely acknowledged turning point in his career as one of the most influential and internationally acclaimed filmmakers to emerge from the Taiwan New Cinema of the 1980s. Although recent years have witnessed a surge in Western scholarship on Hou’s films, Dust in the Wind remains one of his least discussed works, mentioned briefly within only the broader surveys and thematic analyses of Hou’s oeuvre.¹ Indeed, outside Asia, writing on Hou has been notably selective, principally focused on the director’s best-known and...

  7. 3 A Borrowed Life in Banana Paradise: De-Cold War/Decolonization, or Modernity and Its Tears
    (pp. 39-54)
    Chen Kuan-Hsing

    When this chapter was in its initial stages I was in Seoul, where I could not help being confronted by exceedingly emotional scenes of North-South family reunions.¹ Flooded by scenes of tears between 15 and 18 August 2000, all Seoul was turned into a space of “mourning Korean modernity,” in the words of Kim Seongnae, describing the 1948 Cheju Incident.² The all-too-familiar, overwhelming sentiment resurfaced to echo our situation in the late 1980s and early 90s, when visits from Taiwan to mainland China were officially permitted. Loaded with gifts and longing for home, groups of waishengren, eager to reunite with...

  8. 4 Hou Hsiao Hsien’s City of Sadness: History and the Dialogic Female Voice
    (pp. 55-66)
    Rosemary Haddon

    A violent episode in the nation’s historical past, referred to as Ererba, or the 2–2–8 Incident, is the sequence in City of Sadness (1989) that viewers tend to remember the most. For reasons discussed in more detail later, Ererba is a taboo incident in Taiwan’s past, and its treatment in Hou Hsiao Hsien’s film broke new ground in the reconstruction of history. The presence of this incident in City was a factor in the film’s acquisition of the Golden Lion award in 1989.²

    In the film, the representation of Ererba is mediated through the violent business relations of...

  9. 5 A Myth(ology) Mythologizing Its Own Closure: Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day
    (pp. 67-78)
    Liu Yu-hsiu

    The international acclaim for Edward Yang’s latest movie, Yi Yi (or A One and a Two, 2000), has aroused a new wave of enthusiastic attention to his earlier films. Among them A Brighter Summer Day stands out because the two films share important similarities and form meaningful contrasts.¹ Yang’s visual style, which is characterized by long shots, fixed framing, and profound silences, and “which reached an apotheosis in 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day,” is seen as essential to the later film’s power.² This continuity on the technical level is matched on the thematic level: both films aim at presenting...

  10. 6 Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Puppetmaster: The Poetics of Landscape
    (pp. 79-88)
    Nick Browne

    The recent reception of Hou Hsiao Hsien’s City of Sadness as a political film has displaced critical attention from an investigation of the dominant aesthetic tendencies evident in the accumulating body of work by Taiwan’s premier director. This has complicated the problem of situating the distinctive features of his aesthetic project by seeming to bring the work closer, and in some cases even to subordinate it, to the theoretical discussions of “Third Cinema” and contemporary critiques of colonialism. These discussions are valuable in instituting the question of where Hou stands on the map of the contemporary world cinema and in...

  11. 7 Where Is the Love? Hyperbolic Realism and Indulgence in Vive L’Amour
    (pp. 89-100)
    Chris Berry

    Despite its title, Taiwan filmmaker Tsai Mingliang’s Vive L’Amour, winner of the Golden Lion Award at the 1994 Venice International Film Festival, displays a marked absence of love.¹ There are three isolated characters and an empty apartment in contemporary Taipei that they each use and where they sometimes meet. Most of the time they are alone, doing little. Even when they are not, one is struck by their alienation from the people around them. This absence of love in Vive L’Amour is the first paradox. It may account for the dominant international response to Tsai’s films so far, which, as...

  12. 8 Generational/Cultural Contradiction and Global Incorporation: Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman
    (pp. 101-112)
    Ti Wei

    Most existing literature on Ang Lee’s early works treats the films in isolation from the film industry and Lee’s career, focusing either on his presentation of inter-generational relationships in the Chinese family or the cultural significance of his depiction of the Chinese diaspora.¹ Ma Sheng-mei is among the relative few who discuss the impact of the internationalization of his productions on their content.² However, he treats this as a given rather than as a dynamic and negotiated process. This chapter aims to deepen the inquiry into the cultural issues raised by Lee’s three earliest films and simultaneously link them to...

  13. 9 On Tsai Mingliang’s The River
    (pp. 113-126)
    Gina Marchetti

    Although Asian (and specifically Chinese) males have been coded by a racist, Hollywood-dominated, and Orientalist cinema as “queer” — outside the norms of white heterosexuality — for more than a century, and Chinese films as early as the silent era dealt implicitly with homosexuality, Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet (1993) opened a transnational discourse involving issues to do with Chinese culture, nationality, ethnicity, and homosexuality at a time when the political concerns of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals were emerging as part of an international queer cinema.² The issues broached in Lee’s film resonated throughout “Greater China,” the transnational cultural realm...

  14. 10 Compulsory Orientalism: Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai
    (pp. 127-136)
    Nick Kaldis

    This chapter situates Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai (1998) within the continuing academic discussions about the “self-orientalizing” and “exoticizing” characteristics of certain Chinese films.³ Dai Jinhua describes the process this way: “Internalizing the gaze of Western culture, Chinese national culture and national experiences [are] even more profoundly alienated, frozen in the language and representation of the Other.”⁴ In this vein Dai and others have argued that particular films and/or their directors are deliberately creating and marketing exoticized representations of China for the gaze of Western viewers, the accolades of Western film critics, and international film-festival judges. These critics endeavor...

  15. 11 Another Cinema: Darkness and Light
    (pp. 137-148)
    Feii Lu

    In February 1987 about sixty Taiwan filmmakers and critics proclaimed the “Taiwan Cinema Manifesto,” criticizing the government’s film policy and the mainstream media’s negative attitude toward the Taiwan New Cinema. The manifesto reflected the difficult situation the Taiwan New Cinema was in and urged more support for filmmakers. However, this earnest request was ignored and proved an ironic foreshadowing of the Taiwan film industry’s dim future. By the end of the year film production in Taiwan had dropped sharply. As a result the manifesto has been seen as the symbolic end of the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

    If, as most...

  16. 12 The China Simulacrum: Genre, Feminism, and Pan-Chinese Cultural Politics in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    (pp. 149-160)
    Fran Martin

    In the light of its colossal worldwide critical and popular success, Ang Lee’s martial-arts romance Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) constitutes an unprecedented global cinematic and cultural event. The Mandarin-language film earned more than US$ 100 million at the US box-office, making it the highest-grossing foreign-language film in American film history.¹ It was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 2001 and won four: Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.² Ang Lee also received a personal home visit in Taiwan from President Chen Shui-bian, and Taiwan’s Government Information Office proclaimed the film’s success nothing short...

  17. Appendix: Filmmakers and Films
    (pp. 161-168)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 169-190)
  19. Index
    (pp. 191-195)