AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 218

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Session 218: Trans Asia Cinema I

Wenyi in Early Chinese Cinema: 1900-1930
Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, Hong Kong Baptist University, China

This paper reviews the introduction of wenyi into Chinese cinema from the turn of the 20th century to the breakout of the Sino-Japanese War. Wenyi is the translation of the Japanese bungei, a term bestowed with western literary styles of the 19th century. Following bungei’s provenance, wenyi in its initial Chinese context was imbued with translation, western fiction, and concept of humanism, equality, freedom and artistic aspiration. These wenyi traits were propagated by translators of Japanese and western literature, many of whom (Zhou Zhoujuan, Xu Zhuodai, Yan Duhe, Zhu Zhuoju, Cheng Xiaoqing, Bao Tianxiao) were also known for their Mandarin Duck and Butterfly fiction. In the 1920s these writers were embedded in the nascent popular cultural field, leaving their wenyi mark in the publishing and film industry. For instance, Xu, Yan, Zhu and Cheng edited film magazines and translated film handbooks, so through their editorial work, they helped support a sustained wenyi taste in film consumption and criticism. Meanwhile, Xu, Yan, Zhu, Cheng and Bao were involved in scriptwriting, producing or directing. Their crossover activities between literature and film provide ample evidence for my argument for the importance, and fertility, of the wenyi concept in the field of early Chinese film, including criticism, consumption and production. For illustration, my paper will employ content and discourse analysis of a few selected film magazines of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Landscape of China’s Me Generation——A Study on the Films Directed by China’s Post-1980s Directors
Peng Kan, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

In China, the generation who was born in 1980s is often labeled as “Me Generation”, which means they are self-centered. Different from pervious generations whose lives were confined by the politics events that shaped China’s past half-century,the “Me Generation” is a generation fed on the economic milk and honey under China's reform and opening-up policy. Consequently, while the “Me generation” cares little about politics, they are much more interested in their private life than previous generation. At the same time, under the circumstance of consumerism and globalization, the character of this generation is mixed with numerous contradictory elements. They are pragmatic and cynical, reliant and rebellious, self-centered and equality-obsessed. These characters are also reflected in the films directed by the “Me Generation” directors. In recent years, more and more films directed by these young directors appear in China’s film market. But the generation hasn’t been paid much attention to by the academics. So this paper will give a comprehensive overview to these post-80s directors and their works. On one hand, this paper will try to find the generational characters of these directors; on the other hand, it will also focus on the diversity within those “Me Generation” directors and their films.

Film in Manchoukuo (1932-1945)
Hanae K. Kramer, University of Hawaii, USA

In the history of nation-building, no polity has relied on film as extensively as the now-defunct state of Manchoukuo. During the turbulent years of the 1930s and 40s, a motley crew of thinkers attempted to forge a modern political order in the heart of East Asia based not on cultural, linguistic, religious, or historical ties, but rather through common messages sent across all forms of media. These men saw celluloid as the ultimate medium to assist them in their state-building efforts, because film contained the words of pamphlets, the images of posters, and the sounds of radio. Propagandistic media in general, but film in particular, was to be the glue that held together a multi-ethnic state, fostering racial harmony and a national consciousness. Filmmakers for the South Manchuria Railway Company's film unit, the Concordia Association's cinematography club, and the infamous Man'ei Company (East Asia's largest and most technologically advanced studio in the 1940s) borrowed techniques and themes from their counterparts in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Imperial Japan. Even so, the differences are striking. This study is about film in Manchoukuo, and how it was used by social engineers who sought to build a state on a foundation of manufactured images.

Affect and Desire: Representing Saigon in Southern Vietnamese Cinema
Lan P. Duong, University of California, Riverside, USA

This presentation focuses on films made in southern Viet Nam before the war officially ends in 1975. As opposed to state-sponsored films produced in northern Viet Nam, these cinematic representations have not consistently been archived in the country nor discussed in Vietnamese or English-language film criticism. Yet, such films marketed as “pre-1975 Vietnamese films” circulate in and for the diaspora today in order to recuperate the memory of a southern Vietnamese past-ness. The paper examines two such films and compares the images of women found within them. In particular, this presentation explores a comedy called Tứ Quái ở Sài Gòn, which self-reflexively features Thẩm Thúy Hằng as an actress who encounters four country bumpkins in the city. Cued by camera shots that objectify her figure, the film constructs Thẩm Thúy Hằng as a seductive embodiment of heterosexual desire. In contrast, Kiều Chinh, in the film Người Tình Không Chân Dung, which Chinh had helped to produce, represents a portrait of aestheticized suffering, one that is gendered female and rendered quietly heroic. Often dressed in the national costume throughout the film, the symbolism of Kiều’s character rests on the ways that she mourns the loss of southern Vietnamese soldiers. Thẩm Thúy Hằng’s and Kiều Chinh’s iconicity as female stars from a bygone era allow for Vietnamese American distribution companies to repackage their films, capitalizing on the actresses’ past star power and the nationalism of a Vietnamese past. The presentation explores the political economy of such films and the representations of iconic womanhood contained within them.

Translating Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha’s Film 'White Dust From Mongolia"
Hyun Joo Lee, New York University, USA

The artist Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha (1951-1982) began producing her work when she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley in the mid-1970s. While Cha is well known for her book Dictée, she identified herself more as a performance artist and filmmaker than as a writer. Yet fewer studies have examined Cha’s visual work. In this paper, I examine Cha’s unfinished film White Dust from Mongolia. Cha visited Korea with her brother in 1980 to shoot the footage. I have chosen to discuss White Dust in order to explore how a woman filmmaker’s embodiment of actual and imaginary Korea expresses the Korean landscape and its influence on her subjectivity. The footage depicts vernacular images of Korea such as a jar stand (Jang-Dok-Dae), city streets (e.g., the stone wall of DeokSu Palace), a forest, a traditional market, and an amusement park. I understand White Dust as Cha’s process of initiation. My reading of Cha’s work suggests that compared to the portrayal of Korea as a far distanced place in her earlier work produced before her travel to Korea, Asianness in White Dust emerges in the liminal space. For example, Korean vernacular houses fill the screen as if seen through a mother’s look (who regularly goes to a jar stand in the traditional way of life) although she does not appear in the film. I argue in the paper that Cha’s piece evokes another time and space outside the symbolic order by bringing her “corpo-reality” to the sights of Korea.