AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 511

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Session 511: Tracking the Works of Tsai Ming-Liang: Body, Sound, and the Reinscription of East Asia in Global Cinema

Organizer: Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University, USA

Discussant: Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota, USA

After the first decade of the twenty-first century, Tsai Ming-Liang stands to be one of a few true auteurs in the global art cinema scene. Tsai’s insistence on and exploration of film form, the cinematic as such, find rare company in films by artists such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jia Zhangke, and Ki-Duk Kim. The four papers on this panel focus on a number of works from Tsai’s oeuvre through various lenses and from different perspectives, and they place Tsai’s cinematic adventures in dynamic engagement with questions of film form, history, and culture.

Theatrics of Cruising: Bath Houses and Movie Houses in Tsai Ming-liang’s Films
Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University, USA

Guo-Juin Hong’s “Theatrics of Cruising: Bath Houses and Movie Houses in Tsai Ming-liang’s Films” asks what gay cruising and film style may share in common. With close analysis of Tsai’s intricate camera movement in films such as The River and Goodbye Dragon Inn, Hong shows how the authority of filmic apparatus is undermined. Tsai’s camera reveals, instead, a theatrics of flirting, even aesthetics of seduction that is ultimately the cinema itself, where the relationship between film and its audiences remains unconsummated, hovering between promised visual pleasure and suspended identification. Tsai’s theatrics creates a re-visioning of cinematic space that the next paper elaborates.

Wayward Citations: Cruising and the Adventures of Slow Cinema
Daniel ONeill, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Dan O’Neill’s “Wayward Citations: Cruising and the Adventures of Slow Cinema” places cruising in the throes of urban disconnections. Through the logic of cruising in Tsai’s Goodbye Dragon Inn, O’Neill explores the intertextual homage paid to the kinesthetic body in King Hu’s martial arts film and traces an elusive mobility that emerges side by side with that homage, an emergence in which a new body with its “slow halting sensuousness is cinematized. The notion of “citation” extends Hong’s concern with a “pure” cinematic space, placing the cinematic space in an intertextual dialogue with a larger semiotic field.

Tsai Ming-Liang and the Intertextual Songtress
Jean Ma, Stanford University, USA

The notion of “intertexuality,” in Jean Ma’s “Tsai Ming-Liang and the Intertextual Songtress,” is historicized and presented in all the stunning array of genealogies, one that engages with Tsai’s work as a new form of art cinema that has at its core both the high and the lowbrow culture. Nowhere is this complexity better captured than in the star cult status of Ge Lan’s music that Ma delineates as the unique site of abundant signification amidst the otherwise seemingly barren soundscape in Tsai films. Thus theorized, sound, not unlike the particular and yet variant movements of the body offered in O’Neill’s and Hong’s analyses, becomes a crucial venue where a material and materialized space of cinema may be heard anew.

Sonic Spectacles of Sex in the City: The Sound of Sex in Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Wayward Cloud
Song H. Lim, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

And Song Hwee Lim asks us precisely to listen closely to the sound in Tsai’s cinema because it is through sound that the cinematic body can be seen. In his “Sonic Spectacles of Sex in the City: The Sound of Sex in Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Wayward Cloud,” Lim insists that sound is what constitutes the particular sensor environment for any embodied experience in cinema, arguing that the aural is crucial to our understanding of any ideological inquiry concerning the critique of female subjectivity, sexual intimacy, and gender politics. In other words, from this seemingly formalist consideration of Tsai’s cinema, we come closest to a contextual understanding of film form in relation to the questions of history and culture.