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Remaking Chinese Cinema

Remaking Chinese Cinema: Through the Prism of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Hollywood

Yiman Wang
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Remaking Chinese Cinema
    Book Description:

    From melodrama to Cantonese opera, from silents to 3D animated film,Remaking Chinese Cinematraces cross-Pacific film remaking over the last eight decades. Through the refractive prism of Hollywood, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Yiman Wang revolutionizes our understanding of Chinese cinema as national cinema. Against the diffusion model of national cinema spreading from a central point-Shanghai in the Chinese case-she argues for a multi-local process of co-constitution and reconstitution. In this spirit, Wang analyzes how southern Chinese cinema (huanan dianying) morphed into Hong Kong cinema through trans-regional and trans-national interactions that also produced a vision of Chinese cinema.Among the book's highlights are a rereading ofThe Goddess-one of the best-known silent Chinese films in the West-from the perspective of its wartime Mandarin-Cantonese remake; the excavation of a hybrid genre (the Western costume Cantonese opera film) inspired by Hollywood's fantasy films of the 1930s and produced in Hong Kong well into the mid-twentieth century; and a rumination on Hollywood's remake of Hong Kong'sInfernal Affairsand the wholesale incorporation of "Chinese elements" inKung Fu Panda 2.Positing a structural analogy between the utopic vision, the national cinema, and the location-specific collective subject position, the author traces their shared urge to infinitesimally approach, but never fully and finitely reach a projected goal. This energy precipitates the ongoing processes of cross-Pacific film remaking, which constitute a crucial site for imagining and enacting (without absolving) issues of national and regional border politics. These issues unfold in relation to global formations such as colonialism, Cold War ideology, and postcolonial, postsocialist globalization. As such,Remaking Chinese Cinemacontributes to the ongoing debate on (trans-)national cinema from the unique perspective of century-long border-crossing film remaking.34 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3784-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In June 2008, DreamWorks’ freshly minted animated comedyKung Fu Panda 1opened in multiple countries and regions, including the United States, China, and Hong Kong. By juxtaposing two quintessential icons of “Chineseness”—kung fu and a panda—this animation embodies Hollywood’s new trend of chinoiserie characterized by self-conscious appropriation and expropriation of “Chinese elements” (Zhongguo yuansu中国元素). This version of chionoiserie, developed under the aegis of twenty-first-century globalization, simultaneously wowed the Chinese mass audience² and alarmed Chinese filmmakers and commentators, who were left excited, inspired, and/or befuddled by, even indignant with, Hollywood’s ability to out-Chinese the Chinese with a...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Goddess: Tracking the “Unknown Woman” from Hollywood through Shanghai to Hong Kong
    (pp. 18-47)

    Maternal melodramas featuring self-sacrificial mothers abound in the history of world cinema. From classic Hollywood women’s films to Lars von Trier’s new-millennium musical dramaDancer in the Dark(2000), the mother figure works tirelessly for her child only to eventually withdraw herself from the child’s life in order to secure a prosperous future for him or her.¹ In this chapter, I trace the Shanghai and Hong Kong remaking of an exemplary Hollywood maternal melodrama,Stella Dallas,in the 1930s. Instead of rehashing the feminist critique of the mother figure’s marginalization, I explore why the very attempt to present virtuous, self-effacing...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Family Resemblance, Class Conflicts: Re-version of the Sisterhood Singsong Drama
    (pp. 48-81)

    A year before Ruan Lingyu’s “goddess” transforms herself into a blind-mute “captive mother” behind prison bars in 1934, Hu Die, the 1933 “Chinese Movie Queen,” who was to reprise Ruan’s role in both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese in 1938, had already played a talkingandsinging mother, or, more precisely, two mothers (one rich, one poor) who are also twin sisters, inSister Flowers(Zimei hua) (1933).¹ Directed by Zheng Zhengqiu (1888–1935), a dramatist-turned-filmmaker and a founding member of Shanghai’s Mingxing (Star) Motion Pictures Co.,Sister Flowersbroke the box office record, showing to a full-house audience in Shanghai...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Love Parade Goes On: “Western-Costume Cantonese Opera Film” and the Foreignizing Remake
    (pp. 82-112)

    When Ma Shizeng (1900–1964), a well-known Cantonese opera master, traveled to San Francisco in 1931, he brought a volume titledQianli zhuangyou ji(Writings for My Long Journey to the United States), which he had compiled in preparation for this American trip. This volume contains his essays on how to reform Cantonese opera and how to mobilize opera as a vehicle of mass education and for building Sino-American friendship. It also includes excerpts of one of his opera scripts,Xuangong yanshi(literally, “Passionate Romance in the Jade Palace”) (1931), a quasi-clone translation of Ernst Lubitsch’s first talkie produced by...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Mr. Phantom Goes to the East: History and Its Afterlife from Hollywood to Shanghai and Hong Kong
    (pp. 113-142)

    Lon Chaney (1883–1930), Jin Shan (1911–1982), and Leslie Cheung (1956–2003)—three actors from drastically different cultural and historical backgrounds—intersect at one point: at the height of their careers, they all played the disfigured and horrific phantom originating fromThe Phantom of the Opera.Springing from a 1909–1910 French gothic mystery novel by Gaston Leroux (1868–1927), the phantom figure has inspired numerous film remakes in various national/regional and linguistic contexts as well as multiple opera versions (the most famous being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical). In Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing, four film remakes (two...

  9. Conclusion: Mr. Undercover Goes Global
    (pp. 143-164)

    Writing in 1935, four years after his San Francisco trip and two years before the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Cantonese opera master Ma Shizeng identified a crucial trend in Hollywood’s endeavor to harness China’s resources and market. For Ma, Hollywood’s plan of setting up production arms in Hong Kong to make quasi-Chinese epics for Chinese audiences would only jeopardize Chinese cinema. It would pose unfair competition to China-made films and coerce Chinese filmmakers into “selling out,” or losing their Chinese identity. Ma’s anxiety with identity erosion or deidentification in Chinese cinema is at once striking (given his endeavor...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 165-190)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-206)
  12. Filmography
    (pp. 207-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-217)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-219)