Sunday, March 23, 2014

SCMS Conference Notes, Fri./Sat. (3/21-22), Post 3

Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Seattle, 2014

During SCMS this year I was interested primarily in three topics circulating in film studies today: the transnational, Chinese cinema, and Cold War cinema. Below I have captured a few of the panel presentation titles and representative discussions that I attended on Friday and Saturday during the conference, thanks to the incredible work organized and presented.

K18 "Revisiting Kurosawa"
Chair: Olga Solovieva - University of Chicago

Olga Solovieva - University of Chicago “War Photography and Avant-garde Performance in
Dolores Martinez - University of Oxford “Revisiting Kurosawa’s Women”
Michael Bourdaghs - University of Chicago “Hearing the Cold War: Kurosawa Akira’s Soundtracks and Soviet Film Theory”
Respondent: Victor Fan - King's College London 

Michael Bourdaghs' presentation historicizes the work of Kurosawa within a Cold War framework rather than a post-war framework, leading to an interesting question, among others: do we see a leftwing/ left-leaning Kurosawa when using a Cold War lens? The presentation analyzed the film One Wonderful Sunday (1947).

L16 "A Queered China: Making Sense of Gender and Sexuality in Chinese Popular Culture"
Chair: Jing (Jamie) Zhao - Chinese University of Hong Kong

Charlie Zhang - South Dakota State University: “Queering the National Body of Neoliberal China”
Erika Junhui Yi - University of Kansas: “An Insider’s Reflection on Chinese Boys’ Love Fan Girls: Friendship, Romance, and Public Image”
Jing (Jamie) Zhao - Chinese University of Hong Kong: “Something Unfathomable to Others: Fantasies of BDSM, Rape, and Incest"
Shuzhen Huang - Arizona State University: “Fanning the Queer: Transnational Slash Flows and Gender Politics in Contemporary China”
Respondent: Xiqing Zheng - University of Washington

Charlie Zhang's presentation, using the queer as methodology, interestingly discussed gendered representations of China in media presentations in parades, dances, and public performances that perform the nation, noting that gender is the hinge in the relationship between gender, class, and state in the transition from Maoism to neo-liberalization.

N12 Workshop "Melodrama through a Transnational Lens: Questions of Methodology"

Chaired by Christine Gledhill - New York University, this panel included a fascinating and informative presentation by Jason McGrath - University of Minnesota, which looked at melodramatic films made in China after 1949, including socialist realism films in their various permutations. (Since this panel is listed as a workshop in the program, I don't have all of the presentation titles listed here).

Friday, March 21, 2014

SCMS Conference Notes, Thursday (3/20), Post 2

Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Seattle, 2014

Additional highlights from Thursday's panels on filmmaking in China, Hong Kong, and East Asia that I had a chance to attend, include:

G5 "The Cold War in East Asian Cinema" chaired by Man Fung Yip with presentations by:
Han Sang Kim - Harvard University: “Projecting the ‘Free World’ on the Colonial Screen”
Man Fung Yip - University of Oklahoma: “The Age of Lost Ideals: The Cultural Revolution, Modernization, and the Demise of Hong Kong’s Leftist Cinema”
Michael Baskett - University of Kansas: “Terminally Entertaining: Japanese Cold War Nuclear Holocaust Films for Mainstream Audiences.”

Michael Baskett's presentation focused on a fascinating early 1960s Japanese nuclear holocaust film that tapped into concurrent fears of nuclear war. The presentation framed the discussion within the context of the Cold War and the "aesthetics of destruction," among other intriguing topics and discussions.

H5 "Moviegoing Cultures and Film Exhibition in China," chaired by Yi Lu with presentations by:
Yoshino Sugawara - Kansai University: “Birth of Moviegoing: Separation, Succession, and Transformation from Traditional Theatergoing in Shanghai”
Yi Lu - University of Texas at Austin: “Promoting Motion Picture Consumption: Chinese Multiplexes and Movie Theater Marketing in the New Millennium”
Zhiwei Xiao - California State University San Marcos “Official Propaganda and Audience Appropriation: Moviegoing in China, 1949–1966.”

Zhiwei Xiao focused on the disjunction between propaganda film intention and actual audience response. Archival research reveals a multiplicity of responses to the films that did not necessarily adhere to the Communist Party's ideal to use cinema to educate rather than merely entertain during the Cold War.

Dr. Zhiwei Xiao presents at SCMS, 2014.

SCMS Conference Notes, Thursday (3/20), Post 1

Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Seattle, 2014

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a number of excellent panels, including: E5 "Colonialism in Chinese Cinema: Reconfiguring the Past; Renegotiating Its Global Future." I was drawn to the panel's presentations on both the Cold War period in Asia as well as the use of transnational theory. Highlights, in my view, include the following:

Chair: Yanhong Zhu - Washington and Lee University

Victor Fan - King's College London
“Politics at Play: Jazz and Chinese Cinema, 1937–1949”
What I enjoyed about this presentation is the way Victor Fan locates the use of jazz music in Shanghai films from 1937-49 as a site where "colonial and national subjectivities" intersect. An historical contextualization of the Shanghai music, literary, and art scene -- for example, the KMT New Life movement and Japanese occupation -- was carefully interwoven into the analysis.

Jing Jing Chang - Wilfrid Laurier University
“The Cold War Project of the Southern Film Corporation: Film Distribution and Censorship in British Hong Kong”
Jing Jing Chang's presentation described the Southern Film Corporation's distribution of communist ideology, in cinematic form -- particularly historical films -- in Hong Kong and abroad during the Cold War. Her presentation highlighted the film topics that caused the most anxiety among the British colonizer's censorship apparatus, leading the censors to alter and ban certain Southern Film Corporation films.

Wei Yang - University of the South
"My Blueberry Nights Revisited: Wong Kar-wai and Transnational Auteurism”
Using Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights (2007) as case study, Wei Yang's interesting presentation critiques Wong's foray into filmmaking in English, as well as the critical response to his film. Placing Wong Kar-wai alongside other auteur directors who make films outside of their initial localities leads to a fascinating discussion on the "transnational auteur."

Frederik Green - San Francisco State University
“The Twelve Chinese Zodiacs: Jackie Chan, Ai Weiwei, and the Aesthetics (and Politics) of Revisiting a National Wound”
The panel concluded with an enlightening comparison and contrast of the presentation of China's zodiac heads as they are presented, with very different intentions, in Jackie Chan's film Chinese Zodiac (2012) and Ai Weiwei's artwork on this subject.

Post-panel discussion, Seattle 2014.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

High and Low (Kurosawa, 1963): Mini-Film Review

Akira Kurosawa's 1963 film High and Low, based on the Ed McBain's 1959 novel King's Ransom, contains one of the best film resolutions ever captured on film. In the film's final scene, a wealthy business man confronts a kidnapper in a prison--only separated by a window in a visiting room, the reflection of each man on the screen suggests that the business man is a criminal, and the criminal is a business man, among other possible psychological interpretations--including the idea that the two men are actually one person. The first half of the film portrays the business man's perspective (high), and the second half--which is so slow that one might contemplate the ideas of the film rather than the narrative thread--is taken from the criminal's perspective (low). See Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto's excellent account of the film in his book Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema and A.O. Scott's take, below.