University of Hawai'i Press

Critical Interventions

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Critical Interventions

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Children of Marx and Coca-Cola

Chinese Avant-garde Art and Independent Cinema

by Xiaoping Lin

Children of Marx and Coca-Cola affords a deep study of Chinese avant-garde art and independent cinema from the mid-1990s to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Informed by the author’s experience in Beijing and New York—global cities with extensive access to an emergent transnational Chinese visual culture—this work situates selected artworks and films in the context of Chinese nationalism and post-socialism and against the background of the capitalist globalization that has so radically affected contemporary China. It juxtaposes and compares artists and independent filmmakers from a number of intertwined perspectives, particularly in their shared avant-garde postures and perceptions.

Xiaoping Lin provides illuminating close readings of a variety of visual texts and artistic practices, including installation, performance, painting, photography, video, and film. Throughout he sustains a theoretical discussion of representative artworks and films and succeeds in delineating a variegated postsocialist cultural landscape saturated by market forces, confused values, and lost faith. This refreshing approach is due to Lin’s ability to tackle both Chinese art and cinema rigorously within a shared discursive space. He, for example, aptly conceptualizes a central thematic concern in both genres as "postsocialist trauma" aggravated by capitalist globalization. By thus focusing exclusively on the two parallel and often intersecting movements or phenomena in the visual arts, his work brings about a fruitful dialogue between the narrow field of traditional art history and visual studies more generally.

Children of Marx and Coca-Cola will be a major contribution to China studies, art history, film studies, and cultural studies. Multiple audiences—specialists, teachers, and students in these disciplines, as well as general readers with an interest in contemporary Chinese society and culture—will find that this work fulfills an urgent need for sophisticated analysis of China’s cultural production as it assumes a key role in capitalist globalization.

30 illus.

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Cinema, Space, and Polylocality in a Globalizing China

Yingjin Zhang

In this milestone work, prominent China film scholar Yingjin Zhang proposes "polylocality" as a new conceptual framework for investigating the shifting spaces of contemporary Chinese cinema in the age of globalization. Questioning the national cinema paradigm, Zhang calls for comparative studies of underdeveloped areas beyond the imperative of transnationalism.

The book begins by addressing theories and practices related to space, place, and polylocality in contemporary China before focusing on the space of scholarship and urging scholars to move beyond the current paradigm and explore transnational and comparative film studies. This is followed by a chapter that concentrates on the space of production and surveys the changing landscape of postsocialist filmmaking and the transformation of China’s urban generation of directors. Next is an examination of the space of polylocality and the cinematic mappings of Beijing and a persistent "reel" contact with polylocality in hinterland China. In the fifth chapter Zhang explores the space of subjectivity in independent film and video and contextualizes experiments by young directors with various documentary styles. Chapter 6 calls attention to the space of performance and addresses issues of media and mediation by way of two kinds of playing: the first with documentary as troubling information, the second with piracy as creative intervention. The concluding chapter offers an overview of Chinese cinema in the new century and provides production and reception statistics.

Combining inspired critical insights, original observations, and new information, Cinema, Space, and Polylocality in a Globalizing China is a significant work on current Chinese film and a must-read for film scholars and anyone seriously interested in cinema more generally or contemporary Chinese culture.

34 illus.

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Contemporary Sino-French Cinemas

Absent Fathers, Banned Books, and Red Balloons

Michelle E. Bloom

Transnational cinemas are eclipsing national cinemas in the contemporary world, and Sino-French films exemplify this phenomenon through the cinematic coupling of the Sinophone and the Francophone, linking France not just with the Chinese mainland but also with the rest of the Chinese-speaking world. Sinophone directors most often reach out to French cinema by referencing and adapting it. They set their films in Paris and metropolitan France, cast French actors, and sometimes use French dialogue, even when the directors themselves don't understand it. They tend to view France as mysterious, sexy, and sophisticated, just as the French see China and Taiwan as exotic. As Michelle E. Bloom makes clear, many films move past a simplistic opposition between East and West and beyond Orientalist and Occidentalist cross-cultural interplay. Bloom focuses on films that have appeared since 2000 such as Tsai Ming-liang's What Time Is It There? , Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon, and Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. She views the work of these well-known directors through a Sino-French optic, applying the tropes of métissage (or biraciality), intertextuality, adaptation and remake, translation, and imitation to shed new light on their work. She also calls attention to important, lesser studied films: Taiwanese director Cheng Yu-chieh's Yang Yang, which depicts the up-and-coming Taiwanese star Sandrine Pinna as a mixed race beauty; and Emily Tang Xiaobai's debut film Conjugation, which contrasts Paris and post-Tiananmen Square Beijing, the one an incarnation of liberty, the other a place of entrapment. Bloom's insightful analysis also probes what such films reveal about their Taiwanese and Chinese creators. Scholars have long studied Sino-French literature, but this inaugural full-length work on Sino-French cinema maps uncharted territory, offering a paradigm for understanding other cross-cultural interminglings and tools to study transnational cinema and world cinema. The Sino-French, rich and multifaceted, linguistically, culturally, and ethnically, constitutes an important part of film studies, Francophone studies, Sinophone studies and myriad other fields. This is a must-read for students, scholars, and lovers of film.

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Remaking Chinese Cinema

Through the Prism of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Hollywood

Yiman Wang

From melodrama to Cantonese opera, from silents to 3D animated film, Remaking Chinese Cinema traces 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 of The 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’s Infernal Affairs and the wholesale incorporation of “Chinese elements” in Kung 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 Cinema contributes to the ongoing debate on (trans-)national cinema from the unique perspective of century-long border-crossing film remaking.

34 illus.

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Uneven Modernity

Literature, Film, and Intellectual Discourse in Postsocialist China

Haomin Gong

Postsocialist China is marked by paradoxes: economic boom, political conservatism, cultural complexity. Haomin Gong’s dynamic study of these paradoxes, or “unevenness,” provides a unique and seminal approach to contemporary China. Reading unevenness as a problem and an opportunity simultaneously, Gong investigates how this dialectical social situation shapes cultural production. He begins his investigation of “uneven modernity” in China by constructing a critical framework of unevenness among different theoretical schools and expounding on how dialectical thinking points to a metaphysical paradox in capitalism and modernity: the inevitable tension between a constant pursuit of infinite fullness and a break of fullness (unevenness) as the means of this pursuit. In the Chinese context, this paradox is created in the “uneven developmentalism” that most manifestly characterizes the postsocialist period. Gong goes on to investigate manifestations of the dialectics of unevenness in specific cultural events. Four case studies address respectively but not exclusively literature (the prose of Yu Qiuyu), popular fiction (Chi Li’s neorealist fiction), commercial cinema (the movies of Feng Xiaogang), and art-house cinema (Wang Xiaoshuai’s filmmaking). Representing different aspects of cultural production in postsocialist China, these writers and directors deal with the same social condition of uneven development, and their works clearly exhibit the problematics of this age. Uneven Modernity makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of China studies as well as the study of uneven development in general. It addresses some of the most popular, yet understudied, cultural phenomena in contemporary China. Specialists and students will find its insights admirable and its style accessible.

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