Monday, April 17, 2017

Café Lumière: Presentation at Cal. State University, San Bernardino

I am looking forward to presenting the following paper by invitation at California State University, San Bernardino on Thursday, April 20 2017 at 2pm:

"Sympathetic Views of Japan in Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumière and Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles"

In this presentation I intend to show how a close comparison of Café Lumière (Kafei shiguang, 2003) with Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian li zou dan qi, 2005) helps uncover “the ambivalent nature of Taiwanese postcoloniality” as Liao Ping-Hui has written, and additionally, how this “ambivalent nature” may shed light on current cross-strait relations.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SCMS Conference Notes, Friday March 24th, 2017

On Friday the innovative and lively "Transforming Citizens from the Margins to the Digital Mainstream" panel described new media representations of Asian American identity, interestingly noting the ways current YouTubers use, but do not necessarily directly cite, the visual narratives their work builds on (Dr. Lori Lopez & Dr. Peter Feng).


The third presentation in the panel by Dr. Brian Hu, “Asian American Film Festivals, Post-raciality, and the Narrative Feature” worked in synchronicity with Dr. Po-Chen Tsai's presentation yesterday, “A Cinema of Hopelessness: Rethinking Queerness and Globalization through Three Recent Taiwan Films.” In the former, Brian Hu discussed recent Asian American films that do not address issues of race, while Po-Chen Tsai's work described three recent films with queer characters that do not necessarily advocate for gay identity.

This reminds me of another connection among the panels this year; namely, the way intersections of ideas (cultural, representational, political) are presented without resorting to considering them exclusively within a binary relationship of power/marginalization--the best presentations seem to do so while also avoiding the general abstraction of the term "intersectionality."

I also attended the "Femininity, Disability, and Trauma" panel which covered responses to representations of violence against women on the silver screen in Israel (Dr. Raz Yosef), definitions of trauma and it's cinematic iterations (Dr. Karin Badt), the authenticity of filmic characters across the autism spectrum, and the engagement that occurs between witness/investigator and event in terms of the gaze and the stare (Dr. Kathleen McHugh).

Friday, March 24, 2017

SCMS Conference 2017, Thursday March 23rd

Reflections on three panels from Thursday, March 23: the "Race/Ethnicity/Species: Chinese Cinema’s Others" panel included perspectives on the politics of fifteen CCP ethnographic minority (CCP term) documentaries produced for internal government exhibition between 1957 and 1965 (Dr. Ying Qian), recent ecocinema and Chinese co-productions, namely Wolf Totem and Born in China (Dr. Yiman Wang), and mediations between the lived experiences of majority/visible and minority/invisible status in recent Chinese documentaries (Dr. Jenny Chio).

The "Trans-locality, Temporality, and Queer Asian Cinema in the Age of Globalization" panel featured an outstanding line-up of presentations, but what comes to mind in retrospect are the reflections filmmaker and scholar Po-Chen Tsai offered in relation to what it means to be queer in this time and space in Taiwan in terms of nationalism, downward mobility, and current political and economic conditions. One of her case study films is the dark, complex Thanatos, Drunk (Chang, 2015).

Weijia Du's work included this slide regarding
dubbing foreign films into Chinese on the Mainland during the Cold War

This year at SCMS there were fewer Cold War panels than in years past, but the lack of quantity was made up by the superb quality of "Cinema of Displacement: Negotiating Politics, Gender, Identity, and Family in Chinese-language Cinema" which covered Cold War films from China (Weijia Du, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Hong Kong (I In Chiang, Rhodes College), and Taiwan (Mei-Hsuan Chiang, Taipei National University of the Arts) in a captivating convergence of perspectives.

The Bean, Chicago

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SCMS Conference 2017, Wednesday March 22nd

On Wednesday morning I left rainy (warm) San Diego for sunny (cold) Chicago for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2017 conference.


A major takeaway from the "Civics Lesson: Screen Media’s Potential for Empathy, Engagement, and Humanitarianism" presentations is the idea that fan reception is not inherently progressive (leading towards engagement with the Other, inclusive practices, and political transformation). I've thought of this idea in relation to films I've studied from the 1920s and 1930s, so it was fascinating to consider this idea in relation to fan studies today in online and other communities.

Ling Yang's Presentation at SCMS, 2017

The "Chinese Queer Fan Cultures in the Twenty-first Century: Queering Heterosexuality, Geopolitics, and Transcultural Imaginations" panel, with respondent Lori Hitchcock Morimoto, featured work by Ling Yang from Xiamen University from whom I learned about queer fan communities responses to, and re-imaginations of, mainstream works such as the Hetalia manga series. I left before the panel's final presentation in order to attend Brian Bernards' excellent lecture on “Cinematic Soft Power: Memorializing Taiwan’s Colonial History in Umin Boya’s KANO.”

As a visitor here, I can't help but be impressed by this incredible city.

Chicago, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Essay Abstract: Love in the Time of Industrialization

Love in the Time of Industrialization:
Representations of Nature in Li Hanxiang’s The Winter (1969)

My essay “Love in the Time of Industrialization: Representations of Nature in Li Hanxiang’s The Winter (1969)” uses the lens of ecocinema (生態論述) in order to examine Li Hanxiang’s (李翰祥) artistic film The Winter 《冬暖》. Li’s engagement with the non-human environment is exceedingly complex and nuanced, revealing a holistic ecological consciousness in his depiction of urban life on the fringes of Taipei’s urban sprawl. The aesthetic moves that Li uses both reveals his experience as a painter and imbues the film with a Buddhist ethos that offers an appealing symbiosis between human interactions and the non-human world--and cinema’s relationship with the world--in late 1960s Taiwan. Indeed, representations of nature provide a seemingly unquestionable source of stability to the film. By situating the film within its historical context, this article demonstrates how broad scale industrial changes in Taiwan would affect the way people interacted with the rapidly changing natural environment and with one another.

〈愛在工業發展的年代:李翰祥的《冬暖》 (1969) 及其自然環境的再現〉運用生態論述的分析技巧探討李翰祥藝術性極高的《冬暖》一片。李翰祥在此片中對於與人類密切相關的生態環境的描寫有著超乎尋常的複雜度與細膩,以一個高度關懷的生態整全觀看待正快速城市化的台北市區外圍的生活。這樣的美學觀其來有自,李翰祥曾經是一個畫家,他的經驗為這部片引入一股特殊的氛圍,直指佛教思想的影響。在六零年代晚期,這部片能着眼於今日眾所關懷的人與自然界互相依存的關係——但也意味着指涉這部片與閲聽者的世界間的關係——實屬不凡。果不其然,李片所述的“自然”無可懷疑地是整部片的敘事安定感的泉源。這篇文章考量歷史的語境,論及台灣因工業化所產生的社會變遷如何廣泛地影響到人與正在轉變中的自然界的關係,以及人與人之間的關係。

Available in: “Love in the Time of Industrialization: Representations of Nature in Li Hanxiang’s The Winter (1969).” Journal of Taiwan Literary Studies 17 (2013): 81-102.

Image from a film review of Li Hanxiang’s The Winter soon after its release in the late 1960s.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016): Mini-Film Review

In the spring and summer of 2016, Marvel released two tent-pole films: Captain America: Civil War (Russo brothers, 2016) and X-Men: Apocalypse. Why was Civil War released first? It makes sense for a couple reasons: first, the theme of civilian casualties in Civil War goes over better when considered in light of the previous Avengers film, Age of Ultron. Tony and Steve have to deal with the repercussions of the battle at Sokovia, rather than the near-destruction of the entire planet in Apocalypse (I understand why we'll "never see the X-Men and the Avengers sharing a screen" but releasing Apocalypse before Civil War could still inflect audience response).

Second, X-Men Apocalypse is the better movie of the two--it would have upstaged Captain America. From the heroism of Mystique, the anguish of Magneto, the spirituality of Nightcrawler, to the point of view of Charles Xavier: "A gift can also be a curse...give them powers beyond imagination, and they may think they're meant to rule the world." And of course, multiple campy sequences, ridiculous and entertaining.

X-Men Apocalypse

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Chapter/Essay Abstract: Gender Negotiation in Song Cunshou's Story of Mother

Gender Negotiation in Song Cunshou's Story of Mother
and Taiwan Cinema of the Early 1970s


This essay analyzes the representation of gender identity and negotiation in Song Cunshou’s Story of Mother (1972) in order to make two primary observations. First, this early 1970s wenyi, or “literary art,” film released with state approval in Taiwan represents passive males who attempt to earn their right to be worthy patriarchs; women are portrayed as active participants whose actions are acceptable so long as they follow the rule of their fathers. Second, I propose that this model of representing gender changes very little through the middle of the decade, despite numerous social transformations on Taiwan’s political stage. Taken as a whole, the work of an important and engaging director, Song Cunshou, emerges as a primary reference point for a study of cinema in a complex, intriguing, transitional period in Taiwan’s history of the silver screen.

這篇論文以女權主義的角度與分析技巧,探討有關我對宋存壽電影《母親三十歲》(1972)的兩個重要觀察:第一, 在電影內部敘事方面,這一部台灣七零年代早期、政府認可的文藝片,一方面是關於一個缺乏主張的男性角色如何被動地轉變成為父權體制認可的大人,而另一方面則反差地置入一個相對活躍主動的女性角色,她則必需仰賴父權制的同意,以展現她個人。第二, 外部的,就電影歷史語境上來看,儘管七零年代的生活與政治環境,以當時代台灣的政治社會發展而言,已經有很大的變遷, 但性别意識,就台灣電影銀幕上所呈現的,其相對的變化卻很小。綜而言之,宋存壽在此片所顯現對於當時代社會發展的特有觀點,可作為臺灣在一個複雜不平靜的過渡期,其電影發展研究的重要參考點。

Available in: Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s (HKUP, 2014).


Also available in: “Gender Negotiation in Song Cunshou’s Story of Mother and Taiwan Cinema of the Early 1970s.” In A Companion to Chinese Cinema, ed. Yingjin Zhang (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 118-132.