- Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema by Gina Marchetti
Gina Marchetti's new book, Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema, takes a refreshing, illuminating look at citing or citation as a longstanding, productive practice in transnational filmmaking through the history of world cinema. First, the book is refreshing because, as far as Chinese cinema and films about China are concerned, cinematic citations have not been examined in such widths and depths as Marchetti has done here. Second, the book is illuminating because it exposes the cultural logic of neoliberalism on a global scale on the one hand, and on the other the geopolitics of desire that cut through the textual, intertextual, and contextual levels. The most fascinating part of Marchetti's book resides in her persistent tracking of images and tropes of "China" to a select number of significant moments of world cinema and key figures in Asia as well as in Europe and Hollywood.
In chapter 1, "Introduction: Hot Air and High Hopes in Word Cinema," Marchetti plays with a cluster of related key words (e.g., site, sight, and citation) and sets postmodern culture as her guiding theoretical framework. She starts with Fredric Jameson's theory of postmodernism and its citing/siting of "China," for instance through detours of Bob Perelman's poem, "China," Andy Warhol's images of Chairman Mao, and Edward Yang's film Terrorizer (1986). As illustrated in Jameson's case, the citation and circulation of "China" have occurred long before Jameson, so before postmodernism and "nostalgia films" in China and in the West, modernism and modernity have come to bear on cross-cultural citations in world cinema, including its long "Orientalist tradition" (p. 9). Rather than seeing cultural influence as one-way street from [End Page 129] the West to China, Marchetti is to be commended for pointing to the other direction, one that has complicated mutual influences at multiple layers, in which Chinese filmmakers' citations of Western films challenge Western filmmakers' and intellectuals' fascination with China (and, in some cases, chinoiserie).
To her credit, Marchetti does not subscribe to the argument that postmodernity has emptied out meaning in all cultural forms. As she contends, "Whether mediated, translated, glossed, imagined and imaginary, quoted out of context or even misquoted, or purposely or unintentionally misrepresented or misinterpreted, meaning still circulates and intertextual citations continue" (p. 8). What gets cited in a film may not be the originally intended meaning, but the consequent work in "archaic modernity" and "outmoded modernism" (pp. 3–4) always acquires new meaning and may prove consequential, as in the case of Terrorizer. Marchetti aptly observes, "The colonial 'mimicry' condemned as lack of original inspiration by former colonizers becomes in the postcolonial present the creolized, hybridized, polyglot communication of global culture" (p. 5). Taking to test the double standard that tends to validate Western "originality" and discredits non-Western "inauthenticity," Marchetti reveals the anxiety and insecurity behind the apparent Western authority by citing Roland Barthes's unwillingness to publish his notes (which was posthumously published as Travels in China) because he predicted "it would be exactly a piece of Antonioni" (p. 6). Whereas Antonioni's celebrated Blowup (1966) is cited in Yang's Terrorizer, Antonioni's controversial documentary, Chung Kuo Cina (China, 1972), is re-interrogated in Jia Zhangke's documentary, I Wish I Knew (2010), which becomes a recent example of the "ways Chinese cinema talks back to world film" (p. 8). Another example Marchetti discusses is Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), which has built layers of "intertextual references to Post-Impressionist painting (Félix Vallotton), postwar French (Lamorisse) and Japanese (Ozu) cinema, the French New Wave, Taiwan New Cinema, Hou's oeuvre, China's new independent filmmakers (Song Fang), and Juliette Binoche's transnational acting career" (p. 15).
Intertextuality thus defines Marchetti's book, which operates along Barthes's line of thinking: "The intertextual in which every text is held, it itself being the text-between of...