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Taiwan Film Directors

Taiwan Film Directors: A Treasure Island

Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh
Darrell William Davis
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Taiwan Film Directors
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the work of four contemporary filmmakers -- Ang Lee, Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Tsai Ming-liang -- the authors explore how these filmmakers broke from tradition, creating a cinema that is both personal and insistent on examining Taiwan's complex history. Featuring stills, anecdotes, and close readings of films, the authors consider the influence of Hong Kong and martial arts films, directors' experiments with autobiography, the shifting fortunes of the Taiwanese film industry, and Taiwan cinema in the context of international cinema's aesthetics and business practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50299-3
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Treasure Island
    (pp. 1-14)

    This is a study of selected Taiwan film directors. Since the mid-1980s, Taiwan cinema has enjoyed international exposure through the work of young filmmakers who were brought in to revitalize a declining film industry. Although it was not the intention to use these new filmmakers to win international prizes, their films attracted great acclaim at festivals worldwide. The international profile has emerged as a pivotal, controversial feature of Taiwan directors, who went on to acquire outstanding reputations in world cinema. Collectively, the work of these filmmakers, along with several others, was known as the Taiwan New Cinema, a movement detailing...

    (pp. 15-54)

    As a colony of Japan, Taiwan was in a state of confusion at the end of World War II. People’s loyalties, their language, their very thoughts were up for radical revision. Industry, institutions, and social organization had to be rebuilt. Taiwanese people looked forward to rejoining the Chinese mainland. There were high expectations among the island’s elite for self-determination, but these were soon dashed. Taiwan’s rule was handed over to the victorious Nationalist party (Kuomintang, or KMT), though for several chaotic months after the surrender it was the Japanese who continued to maintain order.³

    Under colonial rule, film production in...

  6. TWO Challenges and Controversies of the Taiwan New Cinema
    (pp. 55-90)

    After enjoying continuous expansion from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s, Taiwan cinema faced a series of impediments. Taiwan lost its most valuable overseas Southeast Asian market, following the success of Communist revolutions in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and sanctions were imposed on Chinese culture in Indonesia and Malaysia. The industry was hit by another problem in the 1980s: the decline of domestic Mandarin-speaking film audiences, who turned to exciting, tour de force Jackie Chan kung fu films and excruciating comedies from New Cinema City of Hong Kong. Furthermore, proliferation of VCRs let audiences stay home or patronize video parlors...

  7. THREE Navigating the House of Yang
    (pp. 91-132)

    Edward Yang (Yang Dechang) is the crucial figure in Taiwan cinema, along with Hou Hsiao-hsien. Together Yang and Hou represent a dialectical relationship to contemporary filmmaking, to the international critical reception of Taiwan films, and to each other. Though they are the same age (b. 1947), and are both mainland transplants and founders of the New Cinema, their films are radically different, along with their approaches to story structure and the profilmic. Both rely heavily on the help of regular collaborators, though Hou is more prolific. It would be safe to say Hou’s approach is more intuitive while Yang is...

  8. FOUR Trisecting Taiwan Cinema with Hou Hsiao-hsien
    (pp. 133-176)

    In many ways Hou Hsiao-hsien has become a synonym for Taiwan cinema of the 1990s. Among his peers Hou enjoys by far the most extensive and intensive examination within and outside Taiwan.¹ On top of the long list of Hou Hsiaohsien literature is Olivier Assayas’ documentary film on Hou Hsiao-hsien, HHH: Portraits de Hou Hsiao-hsien (1996), the only documentary film ever made about a Taiwan director by a French filmmaker. Following the film is a string of critical accounts, scholarly essays, dissertations, and books contributing to the hermeneutics on Hou Hsiao-hsien.²

    Two prevalent discourses have been identified in the written...

  9. FIVE Confucianizing Hollywood: FILMS OF ANG LEE
    (pp. 177-216)

    Ang Lee (Li An) is one of many non-American directors to have negotiated Hollywood production and found success (fig. 5.1). But he differs from most in coming to the table not from a foreign commercial career, like John Woo, for instance. Lee’s route to Hollywood was circuitous, from the American independent sector and a Taiwan-made coproduction to a couple of English-language literary adaptations, a Civil War epic, and finally a pan-Chinese prestige picture. Though personally Lee always felt like an outsider, even in Taiwan, his director training was firmly mainstream. Trained first in theater at Illinois, then at New York...

  10. SIX Camping Out with Tsai Ming-liang
    (pp. 217-248)

    Chen Kuo-fu, the director of Treasure Island (1993), The Personals (1998), and Double Vision (2002), used the strange behavior of Tsai Ming-liang to illustrate the parlous state of Taiwan’s film industry. Chen was sitting on a panel called “The Global Reception of Taiwan Cinema” at an American conference in late 2003.¹ Despite the recent success of his cross-cultural horror thriller (Double Vision), Chen showed little optimism for the future of Taiwan-made films. People in Taiwan just do not care anymore about Taiwan cinema, he asserted. He then told an extraordinary story about the methods used by Tsai Ming-liang to drum...

  11. Postscript: TRACKING LOOSE ENDS
    (pp. 249-256)

    Tsai Ming-liang’s camp aesthetic signals a distinctly eccentric pose in both narrative and visual design. We have tried to anchor it within a fascination for working-class song, crossed by warped play-time and queer critique. With their languid, yet structured pace, Tsai’s films show a strong ritual quality, even in moments that by rights should be most private, idiosyncratic, or obtuse. They have a stateliness that belies the squalor of their settings and characters’ inarticulate poverty. Despite the constant loneliness, Tsai’s rhythms, rites, and rituals testify to a social network within which human subjectivity necessarily constitutes itself, even as people struggle...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 257-280)
  13. Index
    (pp. 281-296)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-298)