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Transnational Chinese Cinemas

Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender

Edited by Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu
Copyright Date: 1997
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  • Book Info
    Transnational Chinese Cinemas
    Book Description:

    Zhang Yimou's first film, Red Sorghum, took the Golden Bear Award in 1988 at the Berlin International Film Festival. Since then Chinese films have continued to arrest worldwide attention and capture major film awards, winning an international following that continues to grow. Transnational Chinese Cinemas spans nearly the entire length of twentieth-century Chinese film history. The volume traces the evolution of Chinese national cinema, and demonstrates that gender identity has been central to its formation. Femininity, masculinity and sexuality have been an integral part of the filmic discourses of modernity, nationhood, and history. This volume represents the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, and up-to-date study of China's major cinematic traditions. It is an indispensable source book for modern Chinese and Asian history, politics, literature, and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6529-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Sheldon Lu, Xiaopeng Lu and Hsiao-peng Lu
  5. Historical Introduction Chinese Cinemas (1896–1996) and Transnational Film Studies
    (pp. 1-32)
    Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu

    This volume of essays is a collective rethinking of the national/transnational interface in Chinese film history and in film studies and cultural studies at large. The contributors come from the various disciplines of Chinese history, Chinese literature, comparative literature, cultural studies, English, and film studies. We embark on an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural venture into a topic of shared interest. The occasion for such a project is the globalization of Chinese cinemas in the international film market and the rapid rise of Chinese cinema studies in Western academia. The entrance of Chinese cinemas in the international film community prompts us to closely...

  6. Part I Nation-Building, National Cinema, Transnational Cinema

    • Chapter 1 Anti-Imperialism and Film Censorship During the Nanjing Decade, 1927–1937
      (pp. 35-58)
      Zhiwei Xiao

      Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Chinese revolutionaries faced two tasks simultaneously: externally, they wanted to free China from the grips of the imperialist powers; internally, they sought to fundamentally reform Chinese society so that China could embark on the path to modernity. The anti-imperialism and antifeudalism slogans of the Nationalist revolution of 1924–1927 well captured these central themes of modern Chinese history. The Nationalist government during the Nanjing decade sought to recover China’s sovereignty and rights from the Western and Japanese imperialist powers. Meanwhile, the state tried to foster a new national consciousness among the people. In both...

    • Chapter 2 Two Stage Sisters: The Blossoming of a Revolutionary Aesthetic
      (pp. 59-80)
      Gina Marchetti

      On the eve of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1964, Xie Jin brought to the screen a story about the changing lives of women in twentieth-century China set against the backdrop of the Shaoxing opera world. Although rooted in the intimate story of two actresses and the vicissitudes of their relationship, Xie gave the film, Two Stage Sisters (Wutai jiemei), an epic scope by showing these women’s lives buffeted by tremendous social and political upheavals.¹ The film covers the years from 1935 to 1950, the expanses of the Zhejiang countryside as well as Shanghai under Japanese, Guomindang, and Communist...

    • Chapter 3 From “Minority Film” to “Minority Discourse”: Questions of Nationhood and Ethnicity in Chinese Cinema
      (pp. 81-104)
      Yingjin Zhang

      In recent years, cultural critics have returned to the relationship between nationhood and ethnicity with a renewed sense of urgency if not anxiety. This has been, in part, to criticize the established paradigms andepistemes(such as “center-periphery” and “majority-minority”) and, in part, to reconfigure the geopolitical space in the contemporary world. This study seeks to investigate the functioning of a set of critical categories—ethnicity, race, nation-state—as well as other related terms, such as nation-people, nationalism, state discourse, cultural hegemony, and subjectivity, in the field of Chinese cinema. Proceeding from “minority film”(shaoshu minzu dianying)as a special...

    • Chapter 4 National Cinema, Cultural Critique, Transnational Capital: The Films of Zhang Yimou
      (pp. 105-136)
      Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu

      In the burgeoning field of cultural studies in China in the 1990 s, Zhang Yimou’s film art has been the focal point of much critical discussion.¹ The international popularity of Zhang’s films conveniently thematizes a set of interrelated main concerns of current cultural debates in China: the fate of Chinese national cinema in the condition of transnational capital, “cultural critique” and “cultural exhibitionism” in Fifth-Generation cinema, Third World cinema and Third World criticism, Orientalism, and postcolonialism in Chinese style.

      Zhang’s film art poses a central question, a paradox indeed, not only for Chinese critics themselves but for all interested cultural...

  7. Part II The Politics of Cultural and National Identity in the Cinemas of Taiwan and Hong Kong

    • Chapter 5 Constructing a Nation: Taiwanese History and the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien
      (pp. 139-168)
      June Yip

      One of the most crucial factors that binds a group of people into a “nation” is “the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories,”¹ a shared heritage which, through repetition, creates and reinforces a sense of historical continuity and sense of community. Since its retreat from the Chinese mainland and assumption of control of Taiwan after World War II, therefore, the ruling Guomindang (Kuomintang) government has skillfully deployed the rhetoric of nation to integrate Taiwan into a larger “Chinese” cultural identity and to weave a seamless narrative of Chinese nationhood that ignores differences that could in any way...

    • Chapter 6 The Diaspora in Postmodern Taiwan and Hong Kong Film: Framing Stan Lai’s The Peach Blossom Land with Allen Fong’s Ah Ying
      (pp. 169-186)
      Jon Kowallis

      Born in the United States but educated in Taiwan after the age of twelve, Taiwan “mainlander” Chinese director Stan Lai (Lai Shengchuan) might be better described as an American Asian than an Asian American. Already noticed byNewsweek, Time,theLos Angeles Times, Far Eastern Economic Review,and theAsian Wall Street Journal,he is certainly one of the most prominent theatrical innovators in East Asia today.¹ Recently, he turned from stage to cinema to produce his first full-length feature film,The Peach Blossom Land(Anlian Taohuayuan; lit., “Secret Love: The Peach Blossom Spring”).² The film won first prize in...

    • Chapter 7 Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee
      (pp. 187-220)
      Wei Ming Dariotis and Eileen Fung

      Ang Lee’s films are powerful evocations of cultural preservation as well as intercultural (mis)communication. Lee’s work illustrates the inevitable conflicts and negotiations between individuals bound by familial and societal obligations. These familial and social dramas are often set in scenes where the infiltration of Westernization is in direct conflict with orthodox Chinese ideologies. The overall philosophy of Ang Lee’s films demonstrates the struggles of individuals within and between cultures. Lee’s struggles to place Chinese culture within today’s progressive societies—both in the “East” and in the “West”¹—echo a long tradition of Chinese negotiation with the influences of Western culture....

    • Chapter 8 Transnational Action: John Woo, Hong Kong, Hollywood
      (pp. 221-238)
      Anne T. Ciecko

      Hong Kong cinema poses a number of interesting problems for film scholars. A comprehensive film history remains to be written, and the work that has been done by Hong Kong film critics and historians has yet to be translated.¹ Meanwhile, old prints of films (and collective memory) are disappearing.² Without proper documentation, collection, and preservation, it is as if Hong Kong cinema exists only in the present—and its future is unknown. Who knows how 1997 will change the shape of Hong Kong cinema? Another thorny issue is that of identity: Who is a Hong Kong director, and what constitutes...

    • Chapter 9 Jackie Chan and the Cultural Dynamics of Global Entertainment
      (pp. 239-262)
      Steve Fore

      In early 1996, as Hong Kong’s 1997 reversion to the control of Mainland China loomed ever closer, the precise mechanism and meaning of this transition remained maddeningly indistinct. Hong Kong citizens, political interests, and business entities still didn’t know exactly how reversion to China would be manifested. Of course, the city had been living in this state of suspended animation since the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984, but as the deadline approached, individuals, families, and corporations alike were furiously concocting contingency plans that ranged from maintaining the status quo to overnight evacuation.

      For the Hong Kong movie industry,...

  8. Part III Engendering History and Nationhood:: Cross-Cultural and Gendered Perspectives

    • Chapter 10 Reading Formations and Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine
      (pp. 265-276)
      E. Ann Kaplan

      Edward Said was prescient in pointing out the importance of theories circulating from one culture to another. In an essay titled “Traveling Theory” inThe World, the Text, and the Critic,Said wrote:

      Like people and schools of criticism, ideas and theories travel—from person to person, from situation to situation, from one period to another. . . . There are particularly interesting cases of ideas and theories that move from one culture to another, as when so-called Eastern ideas about transcendence were imported into Europe. . . . Such movement to a new environment is never unimpeded. It necessarily...

    • Chapter 11 The New Woman Incident: Cinema, Scandal, and Spectacle in 1935 Shanghai
      (pp. 277-302)
      Kristine Harris

      When the silent filmThe New Woman(Xin nüxing) opened in Shanghai during the lunar new year festival of 1935, one newspaper reviewer applauded “the number of films with ‘the woman question’ as their subject over the past few years” and declared that “in a time when the women’s movement is being noticed once again, it is inevitable that this kind of film will go on to influence many aspects of the women’s movement to come.”¹ This passage suggests just one way in whichThe New Womanwas a striking convergence point for the cinematic, journalistic, and social construction of...

    • Chapter 12 Gendered Perspective: The Construction and Representation of Subjectivity and Sexuality in Ju Dou
      (pp. 303-330)
      Shuqin Cui

      Since its release in 1990, Zhang Yimou’sJu Douhas drawn intense interest from film critics, academic scholars, and general audiences. ReadingJu Douagainst the difficulties and errors that often occur in cross-cultural interpretations of non-Western texts, Jenny Lau finds qualities of “Chineseness” fundamental to the film’s textual and conceptual meanings, especially as inherent in the cultural notions ofyin(excessive eroticism) andxiao(filial piety).¹ W. A. Callahan, by contrast, readsJu Douas a political allegory invoking both communism and Confucianism. These systems of patriarchal domination, he argues, define the film narrative as a “woman’s struggle against...

    • Chapter 13 The Concubine and the Figure of History: Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine
      (pp. 331-346)
      Wendy Larson

      Yuejin Wang has pointed out an ironic cross-cultural situation: it is precisely the films of the Fifth-Generation directors, films that posit a “cultural identity that the current Chinese public are reluctant to identify, and which they keep at arm’s length” that have received acclaim abroad as a “cinematic representation of Chinese culture.”¹ Wang elaborates the cinematic codes that bear cultural specificity to China—understatement in emotional rhetoric, exploration of emotional subtlety, indulgence in faint sadness, a “distracted” narrative structure, and the evocation of familiar lyrical motives from traditional poetics, as well as other common characteristics such as lyricizing about departure,...

    • Chapter 14 Narrative Images of the Historical Passion: Those Other Women—On the Alterity in the New Wave of Chinese Cinema
      (pp. 347-360)
      Yi Zheng

      The self-conscious New Wave of Chinese cinema begins with a resituation of what C. T. Hsia, in his study of modern Chinese literature,¹ calls the modern Chinese “obsession with China,” an obsession recurrent in modern Chinese literary, social, and political thought, which begins with that traumatic moment in “our” modernity, when, as Benedict Anderson observes: “So, as European imperialism smashed its insouciant way around the globe, other civilizations found themselves traumatically confronted by pluralisms which annihilated their sacred genealogies. The Middle Kingdom’s marginalization to the Far East is emblematic of this process.”²

      It is an obsession burdened with the traumatic...

  9. Chinese Glossary
    (pp. 361-368)
  10. Filmography
    (pp. 369-378)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 379-402)
  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 403-406)
  13. Index
    (pp. 407-414)