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Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Zhou Xuelin
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema
    Book Description:

    Has China in the 1980s gone through a phase of "youth rebellion" comparable with that represented in films such as Rebel Without a Cause (1954), Look Back in Anger (1959) or Easy Rider (1969)? The present study is an attempt to look for evidence in the "youth-rebellion" films produced over that period of time that may help to answer the question. In the last twenty years of the twentieth century, the People's Republic of China underwent profound transformations, of which the changing situation of youth was particularly striking. In a society that has traditionally assumed respect for age, the prominence of youth and their new autonomy were conspicuous. A young generation born on the eve of and growing up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) came to depart from the established social norms by the late 1980s and were considered "rebels," standing in an antagonistic relationship with mainstream ideology. Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema analyzes the construction of "youth culture" in 1980s China by examining young-rebel films in terms of three areas: products (rock 'n' roll music), belief (or lack of it) and mode of behaviour. The study also contexualizes these films by tracing the relationship between changes in politics and changes in film from the 1950s to the present, with particular reference to the altered portrayal of young adults in the 1980s.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-607-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Young Rebels and Social Change
    (pp. 1-14)

    Any study of mainland Chinese film needs to take account of its social and cultural contexts, as changes in these aspects have an intricate influence on the content and style of films, especially after 1949. Lenin’s alleged comment about film — that when the medium is in the hands of socialist cultural workers, it becomes one of the most powerful weapons for educating people — remained an important principle in the policing of the Chinese film industry up to the 1980s. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, Chinese filmmaking, like other areas of the country’s social and cultural life, was...

  6. 1 Re-forming China
    (pp. 15-40)

    The Chinese Fifth-Generation filmmakers attracted world attention in the mid-1980s with their innovative and stylized works. Many of their films are essentially allegorical, providing cultural fables for multi-faceted interpretations of China and Chinese people for a diverse range of audiences, at home and abroad. A noticeable feature of these films was the apparent absence of the city. Most of the early Fifth-Generation works were set either in backward, rural places or in remote, minority and border areas. One exception is Huang Jianxin’s 1985 Black-Cannon Incident (Heipao shijian, Xi’an Studio), which was set in an urban area undertaking the transformation to...

  7. 2 The Apolitics of Rebellion
    (pp. 41-76)

    In Wu Tianming’s 1984 film Life, the male protagonist Gao Jialin is an ambitious high-school graduate with the burning desire to go to the city but has to stick to the poverty-stricken village that has harboured generations of his elders. As we have seen in Chapter 1, the way that Gao thinks and behaves receives severe criticism in the film. Indeed, the film’s closing shots focus on a lonely Gao returning to the bleak home village in depression and regret for having jilted Qiao Zhen, a village girl with a golden heart. The film ends with a landscape shot where...

  8. 3 The Politics of Lifestyle
    (pp. 77-104)

    In 1980, Love on Lushan Mountain (Lushan lian, dir. Huang Zumo), a Shanghai Film Studio production, became a hit. Set in 1977, the film features an overseas Chinese young woman going to Lushan Mountain to look for a man she had fallen in love with in the heyday of the Cultural Revolution. She had to stop their relationship then because she realized that her Western background had brought more suffering and disaster to the young man’s parents. After a series of coincidences and twists, the film ends with the happy reunion of the young couple at Lushan Mountain.

    Upon its...

  9. 4 Rock ‘n’ Roll: From Rebellion to Consumption
    (pp. 105-134)

    This account of “Rocking Tiananmen” is from a 1988 novella titled Rock Kids by Liu Yiran, a Beijing-based army writer. Liu’s writing was adapted from a film script of the author released earlier that year. The film Rock Kids is by no means as innovative and controversial as its director Tian Zhauangzhuang’s earlier works, such as On the Hunting Ground (Liechang zhasa, Inner Mongolian Film Studio, 1985) and Horse Thief (Dao ma zei, Xi’an Studio, 1986). His 1988 film, however, was one of the first Chinese “song-and-dance feature films” (gewu gushi pian) centring on rock ‘n’ roll music that was...

  10. 5 A British Comparison
    (pp. 135-146)

    So much filmmaking and so many discussions in Western culture have focused on youth rebellion that it seems natural that a study of Chinese representations of dissenting youth should include a chapter from a compare-and-contrast perspective. Trans-cultural similarities should be noted, followed by an acknowledgement of culture-specific differences. There are many well-known periods and genres that could be explored as possible comparisons, including American teenage delinquency films of the 1950s, American “Beat” films of the same period, the French Nouvelle Vague, “hippie” films of the late 1960s and early 1970s, films associated with punk in the 1970s, and “slacker” or...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 147-154)

    In the last twenty years of the twentieth century, the People’s Republic of China was again undergoing a profound transformation. Of all the strands that interwove to make up the period, the concept of an autonomous youth culture was particularly striking. A minority of the younger generation, born on the eve of the Cultural Revolution and growing up during it, thought and behaved in ways different from their elders who came to consider them as rebels. This youth phenomenon was new in the Chinese context and generated a variety of different labels such as “juvenile confusion,” “moral collapse,” “spiritual vacuum,”...

  12. Appendix 1: Selected Filmography of Chinese Films
    (pp. 155-178)
  13. Appendix 2: Selected Filmography of Non-Chinese Films
    (pp. 179-182)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 183-204)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-220)