Week+10+Zhang+Zhen,+urban+dreamscape+suzhou+river

Week+10+Zhang+Zhen,+urban+dreamscape+suzhou+river - WARNING...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–23. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
Background image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 10
Background image of page 11

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 12
Background image of page 13

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 14
Background image of page 15

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 16
Background image of page 17

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 18
Background image of page 19

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 20
Background image of page 21

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 22
Background image of page 23
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT'RESTRICT IONS The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve material is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes "fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. qqently shown in the New Directors series at the Museum of Modern Art in {Jew York and selected as one of the ten best films of 2000 by Time magazine. r ‘Siiirhou River, produced by an independent German company, now has a US.- Sased art cinema distributor (Strand). It has been exhibited and received favorably in a number of art houses in the United States, Europe, and Iapan, yet it remains out of the purview of the Chinese audience except in a vco .format released in Hong Kong.I urban dreamsrape, Besides the figure of the female double as a central narrative device, Lunar chose and Suzhou River share a film language rarely seen in previous Chi— lese cinemawthat of fission, nonlinear narrative, jostling camera movement, Phantom Sisters, and the Identity of an Emergent Art Cinema Limp cuts, discontinuous editing, and noir—style lighting and mise-en—scene. f-The latter in particular stresses the rough streets and a sinisterly nocturnal ZH AN G Z H E N arnbience enhanced by rain and mist. The two young directors, both born in irthe mid—19608, seem to be at pains to cultivate an individual style modeled after '{the by-now canonized international art cinema (ranging from the French New E‘s-{Wave to Bergman, Mizoguchi, some of Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, and Kieslowski, ligand more recently, and closer to home, Wong Kar~wai and Iwaii Shunji). At the 5 same time, these directors try to put a personal touch to their China-based t the Shanghai Film Festival in October 1999, Lunar Eclipse (Yueshi),. Wang Quan’an’s directorial debut and an independently produced art {stories It is thus not surprising that the two films, along with those by their peers (Wang Xiaoshuai and Iia Zhangke, for instance), were readily welcomed film, made quite a splash at the otherwise lukewarm event. Chinese iby the international art cinema circuit, which had been eagerly anticipating a critics were impressed by the film’s sophisticated camera work and _‘younger and more energetic cinema after Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige’s epic— editing, in addition to the nonlinear story that, despite its contemporary T'scale art cinema that thrived on cultural allegory and glossy exoticism. urban setting, has an otherworldly dimension inhabited byapair of phantom The new generation of filmmakers, unburdened by the baggage of the or “virtual” twin sisters who live in two parallel universes situated within the Cultural Revolution and the mission to create a distinctive national cinema city of Beijing. It was indeed unusual for an art film, let alone a debut, to marked bya “timeless” Chineseness in order to stand out on the international receive such enthusiastic acclaim in a country where experimental or art ' stage, is more readily cosmopolitan in their professional conduct as well as cinema has always been regarded with suspicion, if not conspicuously re- cinematic expression. They consciously align their practices with the inter- pressed by the official film apparatus for its potential subversive power. In I national art film and independent tradition. At the same time, their engage- 2000, Wang took the film to the Moscow International Festival, where it 'ment with the contemporary transformation of Chinese cities and daily life received the FIPRESCI prize. That same year, Lou Ye’s Suzhou River (SuzhOu therein, as seen in the documentary proclivity of their works as a whole, he), another noir-type film featuring a female double, this time set in contem— Iforegrounds the locaiizing vernacular that is a critical component of their porary Shanghai, emerged on the international art film circuit. The many I. cosmopolitan vision. festival awards bestowed on the film include the Tiger award from Rotterdam' Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River appeared within the span of one year on the and the Best Film award from the Paris Internationai Film FestiVal (which also _' threshold of a new century. Why did these two young filmmakers choose to gave the rising star Zhou Xun the Best Actress award). The fiim was mine work with the same motif and a similar storytelling mode at nearly the same Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 345 aking place in the Chinese ‘1' f the China Film Corpora~ industry, including the weakening since 1993 o the central film distribution and exhibition monopoly) and the frag- iitation of the official studio system, are there possibilities for the emer— ltifaceted film culture that will include independent or time? Wh are both so ' ‘ - ' . . Y fascmated With the intertwuiing of the real i eady audience. With the structural changes t fantastic, the mundane surface of everyday life and its violent and cc of a more mu i independent art cinema? nthis essay I present a preliminary effort to tackle this question, although . primary concern is with how the films’ theme of the female double articu— ates a particular urban experience and cinematic vision. To address this issue employ the method of motif analysis inspired by Kracauer’s study of Weiinar and delve into both the context of production and the textual as well as intertexual space of both Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River.6 This effort entails fininvocation of an early ChineSe sound film, Sister Flowers (Zimeihua, 1933), ch also is centered around two look-alike sisters, in order to tease out some ' s related to the social and aesthetic status and historical significance The overwhelming presence of photogra— regard be seen as formal level, how can we explain their eclectic yet innovative film ‘styl which With great ease elements are blended from, on one hand conve fig" 3 n genres such as melodrama and ghost films that have a long tradition in C " and from a wide spectrum of international art cinema, on the othe ? Clearly both Wang and Lou are exploring new domains of f conJunction with forms of moral and affective economy and the possilfilim sensory revivification (hence the figure of the double and hauntin } ‘ 'W of radical social dislocation and perceptual upheaval. More visibl gthm Urban Generation films, Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River explicitl y an I'llher what Gilles Deleuze has described as the “time—image” and a tactil Titan ' the body,” not least because time is key to these films that cen: anem ished bodies and resuscitated memories and senses. In a film culer on. ' " nated by official propaganda films and commercial fast~food proddrlsltlie dent: avowedly “personal filmmaking” (gereii dianying) practice echoes thalrffi : international auteurs of the 19603 whom Deleuze celebrated as the bath ‘ of a modern cinema” in the postwar period. The preoccupation 'lligers :ocial and epistemological status of the body; the fractured nar Wl‘t ' “dispersive” time (in which “chance becomes the sole guiding thre:::l;:itl:r .- glorification” of marginal people;3 the ubiquity of mimetic mach' ’- I noll'tinged discourse of the uncannY (City); and above all the al lhl'tl?‘ the“ soc1al unevenness and its repression mark Wang’s and Lon’s fiplmrs’aasl iifitlf Worthy in the maklfl 0 at g alterna Mile CIHC 6 ma. 151063.11 ground d mama! iii of an emergent Chinese art cinema. phy and videography in both contemporary films can in this ’ lf—projections about the identity of an alterna- ll as commercially volatile film ti've film practice within a politically as we structure in China at the turn of the century. The uncertainty of this identity, socially and cinematically, is suggested by the ambiguous figure of the female y the male photographer or videographer. The invocation _ 'c deployment of both pre-cinematic and post-cinematic represen- tational technologies, however, paradoxically revivifies cinema’s capacity for ' remembranCe and collective innervation. This is achieved above all by each ' filmmaker’s cultivation of an affective regime and a tactile aesthetic. Despite their settings in two different cities, both films obsessively dwell on the ques— . tion of urban youth’s place in a changing society as much as on the epistemo— logical status and cultural function of the photographic image in the age of I paradigm shifts in film and media culture. The absence of a strong art film tradition in China, however d preempt the existence of art film spectators who have come into ccint Des Ila various kinds of international art cinema through multiple Chan ElCtWIth‘ ticularly since the early 1990s.4 At the festival in Shanghai, even Wan DES, P’ar- himself was surprised by the warm recepti0n of Lunar Eclipse nfitinumtlhar1 [Chinese] audiences actually understood the film, and may in ’fact b g at I prepared to accept a wider range of film grammar.”5 The nest 6 more is why the space allotted for art cinema in China should be s: 11ml: iii:- I'I‘I-IE SHADOWY BUSINESS OF MAKING ART FILMS the so-called Sixth Generation filmmakers began to emerge - In the early 19905, 5 as well as from the from the shadows of the political turmoil of the late 1980 “amtiety of influence” of their Fifth Generation predecessors.7 Wang Quan’an 346 ' ZHANG ZHEN Urban Drenmscape, Phantom Sisters - 347 and Lou Ye are both graduates of the Beijing Film Academy, the artistic cradle-1 for towering figures like Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Tian Zhuanzhuan, Lou was assigned to the Shanghai Television Station in 1990, while the Xian'a _ Studio employed Wang after he graduated from the acting department at the" academy in 1991.8' Lacking the kind of opportunities and the initial enthuf: siasm that greeted the Fifth Generation directors, who were taken under the secure wings of provincial studios, the new generation found themselves having to learn their trade in a circuitous way and to be resourceful on the own. Many of them took up MTV, TV, and commercial production, which also . pushed them into the expanding realm of popular culture and its expressive. possibilities. Lou Ye, like his classmate Zhang Yuan, the maverick figurehead of the young generation, worked on MTV and other media productions when he not working on film. His first feature, Weekend Lovers (Zhoumuo qingren; 1993; released in 1996), about a group of disillusioned Shanghai youth, is a kindred spirit of Zhang Yuan’s Beijing Bastards {Beijing zazhong, 1992) and- Guan I-Iu’s Dirt (Toufa luanle, 1994)—two early Sixth Generation manifesto-- like works. Unlike Zhang’s entirely independent production, both Dirt and Weekend Lovers, hearing at least the label of an official studio, were eventually allowed for public release after heavy cuts. Unable to make films that inter- ested him within the studio after his experience with Weekend Lovers and another feature, The Girl in Danger (Weiqing shaonti, 1995), Lou ventured- into independent projects, taking advantage of the flexibility and mobility . created by the economic and institutional reforms. The production history behind Suzhou River is instructive. It testifies to how artistically innovative Chinese films are made across borders today, often through a combination of local and transnational guerrilla tactics. The film is technically a China-Germany joint production, releaSed by Essential Films ' and Dream Factory. It was in fact started as part of an (unfinished) television series called Super City (Chaoji chengshi) produced by Lou Ye and sponsored " by the Shanghai Studio? Initially consisting of two thirty—seven-minute epi~ .sodes shot on 16mm, the version for TV was reedited and polished after the Berlin-based producer Philippe Bober joined the project and made it possible , to turn the footage into a unified feature to convert to 35mm. The hand—held cameras (by the first-time cinematographer Wang Yu) and the jigsaw-like 1 style (features typically associated with an art film) in part are a result of a I 348 - ZHANG ZHEN "shoestring budget and a tight schedule for location shoots.10 Although over— seas financial backing is not uncommon for the Fifth and Sixth Generation - films alike (albeit with the Fifth Generation’s epics often getting the big figures ,I from business giants), it was a novelty that an unassuming project for Chinese rv inadvertently turned into a cosmopoiitan art product. However, because of I its labei as a China-German production, Suzhou River has yet to be distributed in China. What Suzhou River’s production history suggests is that while it is possible to‘ get art films made in China in the absence of structural support, there are '. _'formidable challenges in trying to give a film a life after it leaves the editing I table or the censor’s screening room. The directors, increasingly left to their _'own devices to shoulder virtually all financial and political responsibilities, find themselves forced to undergo a self—taught crash course in professional— ization and reconceptuaiization of what it means to be a director, especially an ' independent one. Previously, the system included only official studios em- I ploying officially appointed directors who received a monthly salary no mat- ter how much or how little they accomplished. Despite the stringent finan- cial rewards, the directors belonged to the cultural elite and benefited from a nepotistic genealogy.11 The studios held exclusive rights to the films and .' also took responsibility for their distribution. With the dissipation of such a tightly controlled yet secure system along with the proliferation of inter— national coproductions and TV productions, virtually anyone can become a director as long as he or she has a script and a producer.12 Wang Quan’an is one of these self-made directors. No longer interested in working as an actor,13 Wang devoted himself to writing scripts as a way of embarking upon a director’s career. In moving back to Beijing in the mid—19905, he practically had to invent that career on his own. For Lunar Eclipse he was fortunate in raising five million yuan (about US$520,000), ‘which came from an (unrevealed) source of “social funds“ (shehai zijin). Despite its 100 percent unofficial investment, Wang was able to secure a release label from the Beijing Studio, which would significantiy increase its chance to be seen in China. Having passed the censors, he became in fact “free” to find a distributor himself, a difficult task, however, in a chaotic market. This freedom is a mixed blessing because the studio, relinquishing all of its financial responsibilities on a film, also frees itself from the respon- . sibility to market it. Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 349 3. Rather than acting with a tragic aura as doomed eve—ground operation they are deft performers and dealers in producing exiles from the center, marketing an alternative cinema. pensrty for innovation in film language and their audacious treatment-o sensrtive materials, such that their filmmaking is habitually called “explofa HANTOM SISTERS IN THE URBAN DREAMSCAPE ‘ After seeing Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River, it is hard not to think of Hitch- ock’s Vertigo, or of the more recent work by Kieslowski titled Ln double vie de 1 Veronique (1991)——a “metaphysical thriller” about the related fate of two look— alike women in the shadowy aftermath of the cold war.16 A typo in the ,l'p‘iiblicity slogan that Wang coined for his film—“Two stories, one woman, or, We woman, one story” [English originall—is revealing about the filmmaker’s conscious or unconscious desire to emulate and transform either the Holly- - wood classic or an art film by two European masters. Some Chinese critics 3 have hastily dismissed these recent films as mere copies of Hitchcock, Kie- slowski, or Iwaii Shunji (Love Letter, 1995), and hence without any merits of originality What interests me here is not so much the degree of “originality” 'of these films about doubles or copies but rather how they perform this transnational “double take” and, in the process of metamorphosis and syn thesis, create a Culturally and historically conditioned film experience. In his erudite work on the “culture of the copy,” Hillel Schwartz outlines a f the copy and proceeds toward a new understan prevalence of twins, doppelgangers, and replications in the modern age. Not" withstanding the biotechnological and psychological findings about the “in— nate” twinhood at the root of each human life, Schwartz argues that the vanishing (or disappeared) twin in the industrializing society serves as “mote epoch of massive social dislocation and testimony to vanishing kin” in an “fading networks of blood relations.” At the same time, the (vanishing) twin 3 such as telepathy and miracle reldndles in us the belief in magic power making in an age shot through with mechanical power.17 Or perhaps both kinds of pOWers reinforce each other rather than cancel out each other, just as jcinema, for example, has also served as the premier medium for modern magic by pOSSessing a power for enchantment, healing, and spiritual contact between nature and culture.18 It is thus not surprising that modern commer— cial aids are replete with twin images; they are not paraded as counterfeits but often self-appointed, directors and their experimental films has ironicall spurred a strong desire to explore new resources and dimensions both insid and outside of China. At the same time, they are not losing sight ofth possibility of cultivating a domestic art film audience (if not market, quit yet}. Wang Quan’an, who spent a good deal of time in France observingi healthy art house industry, and was encouraged by the warm reception o I. Lunar Eclipse in Shanghai, is particularly enthusiastic about connecting with an emerging art hOuse enterprise in China.” Two years after its completion: during which Lunar Eclipse was screened at several festivals or in special programs in Asia, Europe, and the United States, Wang’s film finally found ‘ place in China’s emerging art film market. In 2002 the film reportedly became the first feature booked by the newly founded A-G {short for avant—gard distribution company (a subsidiary of the Zijingcheng Company) specializing in art cinema. It was shown at the Dahua Cinema in the Dongdan area in . Bening, which served as a location for a key reflexive scene about cinema in the film (discussed further below)” I ' ‘These sketches of the production history behind Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River are not meant to present the whole picture of the Urban Generation I filmmakers, but rather should be seen as indicators for mapping out the ‘ shifting contours of an emergent independent art cinema. In its resistance to the “leitmotif” cinema but in dialogue with popular cinema, this “minor” cinema, in a Deleuzian sense, is conscious of its constant deterritorialization‘ " and possible reterritorialization in relation to both the domestic film indust I Z and the international art film circuit. This instability generates anxiety :1}; I well as energy among the young filmmakers who have to play hide-and-seek ‘ games with both the authorities and the market forces, while also negotiating. ‘ between artistic aspirations and social engagement. This situation has pm: I duced a breed of self-sufficient independent filmmakers who are “nomadic‘l' 1n straddling different media, administrative units, and underground and' 350 ' ZHANG ZHEN . Urban Dreamscope, Phantom Sisters ' 351 ,as proofs of authenticity and scientific efficacy (when used as a control group) - and of the doubling of “exponential powers” of modern technology and ommodity, along with their sex appeal.19 ‘- On the fundamental level of epistemology and subjectivity, twins or multi- les induce our fascination as well as uneasiness with the boundaries of erception, knowledge, and identity. They challenge our ability of discern— ment while giving us the comforting image of likeness or familiarity. They provide us with metaphors of self-reflection and intersubjectivity, While also I‘ haunting us with the very idea of an unreasonable facsimile and its spectral '3 embodiment. On the one hand, the ubiquitous trope of the vanishing twin nd dubious double is symptomatic of uprootedness and fragmentation, and occasionally split personality or multiple personaiity disorders that often be— set the modern individual.2G On the other hand, the same trope invokes in us a f longing for sorority, fraternity, and companionship. On these multiple, am- : bivalent registers, doubleness or double consciousness has become the hall— : mark of modernity, if not its very definition. - - Modernity, however, is also profoundly historical. Films like Lo double vie de Veronique, Lunar Eclipse, and Suzhou River were conceived in the post—cold war period and thus offer a cinematic update of modernity’s genealogy of the mass-mediated production of artificial life and the destruction of real life. If . they share the broad post—cold war representational space, especially as in some way or other they concern the former socialist bloc that included both Poland and China, they differ in the particular location and articulation of the diverse postsocialist experience after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the sup— pression of the student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Wang Quan’an (center), I - I writer and director of Lunar Eclipse, with the author and Ila Zhijie (right), co-organizers of the Urban Generation film series' _ Veronique mid Veronika Although Kieslowski’s film is not my chief concern here, a quick summary of its plot may help us achieve a more nuanced . understanding of the two Chinese films given the basic narrative device that they share. Veronika (played by Irene Jacob) lives in Poland with her widowed “father. A talented young singer, she participates in a competition singing a haunting piece by Van Den Budenrnayer. During her song, however, she suffers from a sudden heart attack and dies. Veronique, her uncanny French double (also played by Irene Jacob), lives in a small town. Also a singer, she too suffers from a heart problem. Drawn by a call from an unknown man and mystified by a package containing a cassette of Van Den Budenmayer's music, Poster for Lunar Eclipse: “Two stories, One won-ran.r - Two woman, One story” (English original). The p _ _ image is that of Iia Niang, - . . . fail; l I l . _ the bar girl adrifi among . it“ "‘“"“'ti m -"‘f“‘ '“-““" ""“W'f‘ 1.” ' the denizens of Beijing. - (Courtesy of Wang Quan’an) gramme story j _ ‘1: "m mm are” imam ' Urban Dreamscope, Phantom Sisters - 353 pear as same-aged twins but more like older and younger ' or each one’s ghostly other (seen supernaturally), or ). They hardly meet in a strictly u River when one sees the to U: D.- O :1 O H. a: "CS among other things, she goes to Paris to find the caller and sou package. The man she finds, who is a marionette artist, becomes he: one pornt he tells her of his new play in progress, about the parall two women born in 1966:"I Among their many shared traits and ‘ h mutual incarnations (in a religious sense " space (except for one moment in Suzho dewalk by the river). This departs from the staphysical” ending of La double vie, where in an extraordinary long shot . 'see, through two juxtaposing window frames (and worlds), two pairs of I dll'ferent daughters and fathers embracing each other. Both of the Chinese films are about urban youth’s difficulty in knowing who they are and what they want. Other than the figure of the double and some other similar ele~ ants, such as the issue of a heart problem in Lunar Eclipse, Wang’s and Lou’s meditations on transpersonal selfhood and virtual sisterhood are more earth— bound than metaphysical; indeed, they are directly aimed at the relentless social world and a moral universe not governed by celestial bodies or divine ace but by worldly desire and disenchantment. resemblance, Veronika and Veronique are connected above all h ' ” telepathy and two common “gifts”: the congenital heart problemY ’ (each girl’s heart beats to the same “rhythm”). While Veronikaadl fro” smging, Veronique gives up singing and carries on her life as a mus'cli ' ‘ I Yet Kieslowski’s artfully arranged audiovisual cues (especially in their and ending) indicate that they are not exactly twins living in two countries, they are more like phantom sisters in largely parallel va udl er cess1ve, universes that intersect only at fatal or redemptive momhntf Y s W‘l‘nle-Kieslowski’s “metaphysical” parable meditates obliquel on th‘ If I of a unified” Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lunar Edi s :1- at zhou River are primarily concerned with the fragmentation of the 5533:5115 ce, of post~1989 Chinese society—or the emergence in it of separate, disjdinted ring In Lunar Eclipse two girls with a striking resemblan Ya'Nan and Iia Niang (both played by Yu Nan), have mysterious interactions :1 though each lives a separate life in Beijing. Their disparate stories but shared destiny unfold in a complex spatial and temporal web. In a manner reminisaent of Knife in the Water by Roman Polanski, Lunar Eclipse (which 'even has a knife as a love token) opens with the newlywed Ya Nan and her husband out for a drive in their bright-red sports car, an incongruous sight in the rural landSCape outside Beijing with its topography characteristic of a poor developing country. They meet Hu Xiaobin, an unkempt young pho- ' tographer who says he knew a girl who looked exactly like Ya Nan. Ya Nan is drawn to the photographer, whose real job turns out to be a cab driver, and through him she enters the story of Iia Niang, her younger look-alike. Mean— while, her marriage begins to show signs of trouble. If La double vie’s metaphysical power pivots around the likeness of the two women in a (formerly) divided Europe, Lunar Eclipse quickly departs from the realm of sameness in order to reveal the radical difference in “one woman, _ ornforting metaphysical horizon is ironed out to pave way _- for a fable of social hierarchy and division. Ya Nan, who has given up acting 0 her heart ailment, is a sophisticated urban woman living with her well; (or nouveau riche) husband in an elegant apartment, whereas the s h ' - . . _ p eres, particularly in the Cities. Their phantom sister tales are clearly staged Ya Nam and lid Ni a a' g 11181: the background of the accelerated transformation of a socialist state to a ma - ' ' ' ' r et driven capitalist economy, Wthh has created vast social unevenness J sensory and psychological overload, and above all a shift in cultural digms. However, neither Wang nor Lou is in a strict sense a documentaf'arz? Even less are they inclined to contain what they see and want to e m".- reified realist conventions—that is, transparent representation in a citesjlm‘ " illusmnary world, which is largely the domain of the leitmotif and 1:: 'ed stream commercial cinema. Instead, their sharp observation and subtle s all; cr1t1que- are conveyed through an evocative and provocative visual s 1 Qt: " pushes into disarray the divide between form and content the mat at the Immaterial, surface and depth. The phantom sisters ahd the aernll ind intersectingworlds in which they inhabit indicate on one hand the 51:13 :2 e' or ‘ of a normative or taken~f0r-granted perception of time and space ex per‘151ml and 1dent1ty, and the exploration of other possible worlds in lifed dP Hence I‘ on the other. H film art) As is the c ‘ - - . . ,, ase in La double we, despite being the semblance of twins the two - _ two stories.» The C women, played by the same actress in both Wang’s film and in Lou’s are not ' _ duet to-do biological tw1ns but are at best “virtual” twins as they operate on crisscross‘ ‘ a . . . I in .‘ p nes of reality. However, in what is different from La double vie the Chines: J 354 ' ZHANG ZHEN Urban Drenmscape, Phantom Sisters - 355 younger Iia Niang drifts in the lower strata of the city, dreamingof 3 ca a film actress. Both suffer from a congenital disease: Ya Nan’s heart 13 bl“ from her father’s side, while Iia Niang i5 plagued by latent schizophr' heavy traffic. She has been hit by a car, “as if in a dream.” After the accident sh is taken to the hospital, Where her heart condition is detected. As a result,.Ya Nan decides to give up her acting career to prepare for marriage. The mystery surrounding the identity of the double seems to come to a Jfull circle at the final moment of recognition when the shocked Ya Nan and the dying fiat Niang see the (approximate) mirror image of each other. Instead of using superimposition or other techniques to place the two in the same frame, the I uncanniness of their encounter is rendered in a shot and reverse shot struc-. ture, which then is followed by a pan that reveals that they do not actually occupy the same life space. At the crossroads of their lives as well as the film narrative, the hitherto diverse planes of existence have collided or wedged into each other momentarily, but the film as a whole does not try to achieve a “reunion” with this coincidence. The power of the last scene in Lunar Eclipse comes not so much from the ' impact of the accident and the fateful encounter as it does from the inter- secting (hence the crossroad) of disparate dimensions of experience and con- - Sciousness. The mirror image is only approximate because the cues from the women’s dress, hairstyle, and manners indicate that they cannot be more I different. One is a stylish, educated woman in her late twenties or early thirties—she is a “new human being” (xin renlei) who chooses to be a house- wife (a class index for the nouveau riche).23 The other, somewhat younger and with a head of intractable dreadlocks and navel-exposing pants, stands for the Lunar Eclipse: Ya Nan, the actress, as an alienated middle—class woman. (Courtesy of Wang Quan’an) Lunar Eclipse: The problem of vision and telepathic pain. (Courtesy of Wang Quan’an) 356 ‘ ZHANG ZHEN ”23 There is nothing more compelling than for the unstable physical society. and psychological identity of a young woman on the edge of the society, exposed to visible or invisible dangers, to stand for the shifting form of a relentlessly changing society and the urgency of intervention on the brink of catastrophe. so—called “new—new human being" (ximcin renlei), whose favorite pastime 5.2‘1 They embody visibly different social stand- dancing into a trance at disco ings and lifestyles, and thus divergent destinies, yet both seem to have arrived at the same crossroads in their life after fleeing from the abuse, physical emotional, of men. The crossroads where their final, purportedly “accide tal,” encounter takes place underscores the contemporaneous DOHSYIlChtonlc-V ity of the women’s lives. Iia Niang’s violent death paradoxically reveals the , vacuity and artificiality in the life of Ya Nan, who, h0wever, through her : “telepathic” witness gains a new understanding of her own life. In this “trans- ‘ ’ the endings and beginnings of both of their lives and stories” 3 version of a Meimei and Madam How does Lou Ye’s Suzhou River assemble it ory of two look—alike young women? Released only a few months after at the outset Lou Ye’s cruel st ‘ Lunar Eclipse (though initial footage was shot in 1996), film seems an uncanny double of Lunar Eclipse, a resemblance that under- e of their shared narrative (Suzhou River is the city’s finite universe,’ converge and diverge, rupture and resume.25 A fleeting allusion to twinhood early in the film foretells the women’s- shared fate as phantom sisters. As an avid amateur videographer, Ya Nan enjoys shooting randomly on the street. One of her takes includes a pair-of I twin sisters; but at that early point neither Ya Nan nor the viewer heeds their significance. If her initial attraction to the amateur photographer and her curiosity about a girl who resembles herself stems from her desire for finding her true self, a self repressed by the boredom of her middle-class life, then her search for the other girl increasingly takes on the urgency of finding am; ished kin, a phantom sister.26 This “virtual” sisterhood is reinforced by the fact that each woman seems to be roofless and left on her own. Ya Nan has'a sick father we never see; Iia Niang has a mother locked up in a faraway mental hospital. That sense of compounded alterity and affinity leads Ya Nan to enter the world in which lie Niang lives or once lived, while the compression of the ' n them propels each toward the final scene of the scores the contemporaneity and historical valenc motif and noir style. As the film’s title indicates “maternal river,” or muqinhe), the film is conspicuously set in Shanghai. Mudan (which means peony) and Meimei (both played by Zhou Xun), like their c0unterp arts in Lunar Eclipse, are not real twins but virtual incarnates, or ' phantom sisters. Mudan, a teen daughter of a businessman involved in smug— -. gling an Eastern European brand of Vodka,” is the love interest of a young drifter, Mada, one of numerous motorbike messengers seen in the busy streets of Shanghai. Mada is hired to escort Mudan out of the house when her father e. After Mada takes part in kidnapping her for ransom, motion shot, jumps from the picturesque r the takes prostitutes horn I 'Muclan runs away and, in a slow» ' Waibaidu (“Garden”) Bridge into the mouth of the Suzhou River nea Bund, where she vanishes without a trace. The attentive viewer will, however, notice her clutching a blond mermaid doll—~a birthday gift to her from Mada. After this point, boat passengers and passersby occasionally spot a beautiful id on the banks of the river, her shining image and supernatural pres- temporal distance betwee fatal accident, one that encapsulates the series of “accidents” that structure an merma erratic narrative of chance encounters and impossible rescues. Such a deliber- ence highly incongruous with the notoriously smelly and polluted riVer. This tale of affection, betrayal, and loss crisscrosses with, or rather is framed ted temporal arc is distinctly noir—influenced, as it is more in- “how” rather than “what” in a social world beyond the control ately convolu a videographer and the clined to show of the characters themselves.” The figure of the phantom sister and the underlying “surrealiry” of social ' '- relations affords a poignant exposure of the pain of countless separated sib- lings, humiliated women, and torn families in a society undergoing drastic and often violent transformations. Indeed, references in the films to physical - and emotional pain are legion. This cruel story of youth, as the Chinese film critic Dai Iinghua concludes, is thus also about the “cruelty of existence and , another tale of attraction and distance between ks as a performer in a huge fish tank, swim— ming in a blond Wig and mermaid costume to entertain the customers of a seafood restaurant 10cated on the riverbank. The vanished Mudan seems to have returned, as if the mermaid doll in her hand becomes animated and incarnated into Meimei. The “maternal river” has perhaps given a new life to her. When after an unspecified amount of time has passed Mada returns from he finds in Meimei his lost Mudan.30 The latter in turn by, character Meimei. Meimei wor I aprison term to the city, 358 - ZHANG ZHEN Urban Dreamscnpe, Phantom Sisters - 359 f comes to identify herself with Mudan through Mada’s storytelling (in a man- ner similar to what happens in Lunar Eclipse between Ya Nan and the pho- tographer). Mada finally locates the real Mudan as a cashier in a convenience ‘ store, only to die with her in a violent motorcycle accident soon thereafter. When the videographer returns to Meimei’s boathouse, she is nowhere to be found. Throughout the film, the trope of the double is enshrouded in the ambience of a ghost story, which is evidenced by the fake peony tattoo on the left thigh of both Mudan and Meimei. A Chinese viewer is likely to associate , - ‘this motif with Tang Xianzu’s classical play from the sixteenth century, The I Peony Pavilion (Madam ting)——perhaps the most famous ghost romance in Chinese literary and theatrical canons.31 And the image of the mermaid as a ' hybrid figure, as the art historian Jerome Silbergeld keenly observes, can also be projected back into Chinese cultural tradition, wherein the lore of beautiful ' women committing suicide by drowning and returning as spirits is legion.32 Yet here these classical allusions serve as a reminder of the “spectral” nature of the present. As Harry Harootunian suggests, the figure of the revenant arrives, constantly, in the form of the “ghosts of what had been past and the pre- modern culture of reference that had not yet died, returning from a place out ' of time to haunt and disturb the historical present.”33 Ultimately, it matters little Whether or not Mudan and Meimei are the same girl—either one could be among the countless young women in Shanghai today who experience the loss of innocence more rapidly than in any previous generation but who also are more adept at performing multiple identities and quick changes. Lou Ye has confessed that because the film was derived from two made—for-Tv projects, and as such resolving the mistaken identity was not his chief concern, it took him some time to decide whether to have one actress playing two parts or two actresses playing the same part. Meimei’s job per~ forming as an enticing half—human half-fish creature is hardly shocking to customers who are used to seeing young women eating their “rice-bowl of youth” in various capacities or disguises, mostly in the service and entertain— ment industry.“ In an age when eating expensive fresh seafood is a status Suzhou River: After Mudan’s disappearance, a “mermaid” surfaces at a seafood joint symbol for the nouveau riche, who themselves have often “plunged into the by the men ocean” (meaning into the risky business world as opposed to the low-paying, stagnant state sectors), there is little difference between a live exotic fish and a body to be bought and consumed.35 A large number of Shanghai’s seafood restaurants are concentrated on two famous food streets, Huanghe Road on Suzhou River: The peony tattoo—marker of authentic identity? 360 - ZHANG ZHEN the south side of Suzhou River and Zhapu Road on the north side. A mermaid I. in a fish tank also invokes the prevalent image of the “caged golden sparrow,” I which refers to the young female gold diggers who trade youth-and sex for luxury, often in the confines of a modern apartment or villa. Within this ' context the aquatic reference is hardly arbitrary. In this regard, Mudan’s' plunging into the river mouth—which not only is the most photogenic spot in Shanghai’s iconography but also an emblem of a backward China connecting - I with the global trends at the end of the twentieth centuryflcaptures the troubled spirit of China’s globalization. As the daughter of a businessman engaged in illegal transnational trade, and as the barter for a ransom in an underworld rivalry, Mudan falls prey to the multiple forces of globalization I that have been eroding the metropolis in the 19905. This globalizing ambition, ‘ while contributing to a large—scale facelift for cities like Beijing and Shanghai, is also shattering countless ordinary lives and youthful dreams. These social subtexts, sedimented under a vertiginous narrative surface, - _' give Suzhou River an added poignancy. While most of the Urban Generation- " films are set in China’s political and cultural capital of Beijing, Lou Ye’s film offers a rare and penetrating look at Shanghai’s urban geography and social ecology that has seen the rise, decline, and revival of a Chinese metropolis; ' Instead of Huangpu River, which boasts the window«clressing Bund lined-with - its colonial bank buildings on one side and the soaring skyscrapers in Pudong on the other, Lou Ye chose to portray the smelly waterway that has served as a vital link between the city and the surrounding rural areas and thus has been the central artery of the expanding metropolis since the beginning of the twentieth century. For most of the past century, the Suzhou River, which used to be called Wusongjiang,35 has been the transient home of countless boatmen who carried in migrants as well as vegetables, soy sauces, rice wines, and silks and cottons, and then freighted out the city’s sewage and trash. The river, with its winding course and multiple heavily used bridges, is also a vital connection between the northern and southern part of the city. Historically, the river has served as a major divide separating the foreign concessions on the southwest side and the Chinese domains in large parts of the northeast, and thus also is a divide between different social classes and cultural communities. On multiple levels, the Suzhou River, far more than the Huangpu, is the artery of the city and the reservoir of its memories. Suzhou River’s quality as a “dreamy documentary” of Shanghai is displayed Suzhou River as the “maternal river” and reservoir of urban memory. in the opening of the film before the title appears. In fact, Lou began working on the film as a “documentary” before the story took salient shape. For a month he wandered along the river and shot footage with a super—8 video camera; in so doing he gradually entered the space of the narrative in which the border between reality and fiction is never clearly demarcated.37 The invisible narrator holds his camera and drifts down the river on a boat, from which he surveys the people and the surrounding urban landscape. In the film _ we see the turbid water, then the embankments lined with decrepit buildings - —»many in the process of being demolished. We wonder what happened to the people who used to live or work there. Shots of buildings are intercut jaggedly ' with boats, boatrnen loading or unloading cargos, people cooking or eating, and city people standing on the bridgeswmany of them looking straight into the camera. The swish pans and the erratic editing are characteristic of amae teur videography yet are also lyrical and candid. The videographer’s voice- over glides into this urban dreamscape of ruins and memory: “I often go out to shoot the Suzhou River with my camera, floating ClOWn the river from West to East and cutting across all of Shanghai. The river is a century’s worth of legends, stories, memories and all that rubbish, all of which makes it the filthiest river. But there are still many people here, making a living on the river. 362 - ZHANG ZHEN Urban Drenmscape, Phantom Sisters ' 363 If you look long and hard, the river will let you see evarything . . . p lonely people . . . I have seen the birth of a baby, a girl jumping into the .ri the corpses of a pair of lovers being lifted out-.of the water by the police for romance, I have seen a mermaid who was combing her blond hair. don’t believe me, I’m making all this up.” of which the river—and by extension, Shanghai—is its true protagonist. As film critic I. Hoberman aptly notes: “Lou has transformed Shanghai ‘ a personal phantom zone. Named for an urban stream of consciousi'i Suzhou River is a ghost story that’s shot as though it were a documenta‘ and a documentary that feels like a dream?” Lou’s dreamy document ' quickly become a part of the city’s archive. By the time of the film’s release, river had been cleaned up through a large infusion of money from the" Bank. Expensive condominiums and olhce complexes are rapidly takin along the riverbanks, where the half-torn buildings seen in the film he stood. The boathouses have been forced out, and the sewage pits on'thlij embankments, at least those near the river mouth and the Bund, have “aim Kit/er: “Happy Tavern” (Shiji kaixin Bar, literally Century Happy Bar). yth of the “south” to its core. Iia Niang and Meimei are thus the transient inhabitants of Beijing and Shanghai. Like those tender-aged female migrant workers (dagongmei) swarming into the cities, these women are relegated to the margins but also proliferate as their adopted cities grow and decay, and grow again. Their fastvchanging shapes and fluid identities render them the very flesh and blood, figuratively and literally, of the tantalizing urban dream. replaced by strips of green promenades. The urban lore today has it that even edible fish have begun to return to the river after decades of absence. ‘ Suzhou River might be seen as an unwitting sequel to Lunar Eclipse in the itinerary of their phantom sisters in the national urban geography. In fact, th‘ two films make up one tale of two cities. Ila Niang repeatedly states her desir to “go south” (nonfang; referring to the coastal cities like Shenzhen or Shang .. hai, areas known for their Special Economic Zones and hence opportunities) . I . - Dalton and Erlmo (an Interlude from the Post) Suzhou River’s meditatlon on the citfs unconscious and woman’s fate in modernity’s labyrinth takes us back to where Chinese cinema’s early “golden age” began in the 19303. \Nhile a contemporary art film lover would instantly draw a synchronic parallel be tween Lou’s and Wang’s films with those of Kieslowslti or Wong Kat—wan a hrs- torian of Chinese cinema would not resist the temptation to make a diachronic connection between Lou’s and Wang’s tales of phantom sisters with Zheng Zhengqiu’s classic Sister Flowers (Zimeihua, 1933), so as to ponder the rele- vance of the trope of female twins for both urban memory and film history. In . both its narrative and cinematic registers Sister Flowers exemplifies the prob- . lem of the vanishing kin, of difference and affinity, and of heredity versus sociality. The apparent class allegory embodied by the twin sisters, made v15- to both flee from her misery in Beijing and seek her luck in the milder and . more prosperous south.” Before her disappearance from the story, Jia Niang if is seen spending a gbod deal of time losing herself in a place called the Beijing -- Oriental Imperial City of Entertainment, which features, among other things, a tawdry karaoke bar with plush patterned sofas and a neon~colored cocktail H called “Pink Lady." In Lou Ye’s Shanghai, Mudan’s lookualike resurfaces in the sleazy, neon-decorated “Happy Tavern” bar—cum-seafood restaurant, a place ._ where Iia Niang could have landed if she indeed had fled the harsh north. If _ - the “south” in Lunar Eclipse still carried an aura, a destination for worldly success and self—realization, then Suzhou River, with its unflinchineg gritty": portrayal of a rusting metropolis as an industrial wasteland (the river has also been the primary site of heavy industry) and its unhappy souls, shatters the _ 364 _ ZHANG ZHEN Urban Dreamscczpe,Phantom Sisters - 365 better-looking Erbao deserts the family for the city, taking with him the Years later, Dabao is o subsequently becomes a high official’s concubine. arried and gives birth to a son. The distressful conditions in the country ring the warlord period force the rest of the family to move to the city, ‘ re Dabao becomes, unwittingly, a wet nurse for Erbao’s newborn baby. eis chosen for the reason that she has the same blood type as Erbao and duces good milk. Desperate to save her husband who has been injured in a Dabao attempts to steal the baby’s silver charm necklace but is caught f the sisters finds their father, who is now a high se Dabao. The family is finally reunited at ctoty, the act. The mother 0 Sister Flowery A tale of tw' ' . in sisters and contrasti f ’ ' (Courtesy of the China Film Archive} fig ates m 19305 Shanghali ible a ' powegi1:::::r::rdoub1; exposure and other cinematic devices, forges a A mlminating sue}; on t e experlence of modernity and its representability. Flowers portrays the C135 in Zéiengs career before his death in 1935, Sister wangg films, Sister Floergent ates of a pa1r of twin sisters. Unlike Lou’s and served as a Chief Wi .wers IS ostens1b1y a family melodrama, a genre that foundEd in 1922 Banrgng formula for the Mingxing Company, which was features the pop.lllarsle—I 01:21 three-act “Civilized Play” by Zheng}o the film “two flowers of the SE: re, who plays both sisters, or, as the title suggests, poor famfl in th e stem. The twms, Dabao and Erbao, were born to a y e country. The good-for-nothing father, a gun smuggler by 356 ' ZHANG ZHEN fficial, and begs him to help relea -e' end of the film when the tw1ns 1 The film app ' ’ 'dentity is revealed to each of them. e first—run Xinguang Grand Theater in Shang- ly for two months to enormous d for a Chinese product rts dominated the market. in a fashion not entirely clipse’s and Suzhou River’s forays into international art is transported by the filmmakers or actors themselves, International Film Festival y Wang Quan’an), where it hinese films from that period exhibited in Europe};1 ealed to the Chinesa audiences, especially members of the lower lodramatic mode served as an efficient vehicle ial contradictions and alienation ion in a time one of only a few C and 10wer—middle classes. Its me for precessing and understanding the soc that beset a modernizing socrety.” Another reason for the success of Sis star vehicle for flu Die, yet this time wi power is literally doubled by the plot (as was the movie ticket cost), her roles as two diametrically different sisters provided a showcase for her acting skill. For the audience, however, that power was not just about seeing two Hu Die films in one. Because the film was one of the first in China to have sound, for the audience it was a way to experience once more the magic power of film technology and its impact on the modern perception of corporeality and selfhood. it is important to stress that the attraction of the film owes much to the (more or less) successful “union” between image and sound; the previously popular melodrama of the silent period is now injected with the “life” of human voice and other sounds. ter Flowars is that the film served as a th an added dimension.43 Her star which in Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 367 ‘ While Wang's and Lou’s contemporary noirish art hou5e tales of phantom srsters are obviously not modeled on Zheng’s socio-biological drama of twin—- hood, the affinity of the films may be located in the way each generation discerns the connection between women’s fate and the lure of the metropolis in periods of accelerated modernizatiOn. Wang Quan’an told a Boston au- dience that his writing of the script was motivated by his sympathy for Chi- nese women’s hardship today, “because, regardless of who they are and what they do, many of them are sad and unhappy?"14 On another OCCasion he confessed, in a possible allusion to melodrama, “Actually the basic structure of the film is very simple and traditional.”“=5 However, it is family, the hallmark of Zheng’s melodrama, that is conspicuously missing or broken beyond repair .n . . . 1 Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River. The sultry, precocious “new-new human ‘ being” generation of girls in dread10cks, tattoos, and blond wigs are perhaps ' Dabao’s grandchildren in age, but they do bear resemblance to Erbao in that . they share with her the desire for material comfort, on one hand, and a I compassionate heart on the other. The migrant young female workers in the 19903 may not work as Wet nurses, but there is an army of maids who clean and cook for the urban middle or upper class as well as care for their old and young. Erbao’s role as a concubine is thus familiar again, filled in by all~too~ many willing “golden sparrows.” It Would be hardly surprising today to find and multiples became no longer the exclusive domain of nature but part of ' I the enterprise of biogenetic engineering. In Lunar Eclipse, for example, there. are passing references to plastic surgery and sex change or identity change.“ In China, after long periods of relative social stasis imposed from above, the post—cold war period has witnessed tremendous upheavals in family struc- ture and in ethics, with the rigid enforcement of the one-child policy on the one hand and the rising rate of “illegal” births by migrant and rural popula- tions on the other. At the same time, those in the emerging urban white—collar class, especially the young and ambitious, are less inclined to have children. With the dissolution of the extended family, the rising divorce rates in the ‘ cities, and the massive migration and dislocation in the seciety as a whole, there is an increased anxiety about the breakdown of generational continuity, 368 - ZI-IANG ZHEN loss of innocence, and lack of human connection. I think it is the simulta— - neous apprehension of this identity crisis and the desire to connect with real or imagined kin and stranger alike that informs the moral and social concerns of these recent films about missing bodies and phantom sisters. If during the transition to sound Sister Flowers harnessed the technology of sight and sound to realize a hyperbolic melodrama about social inequity, Wang’s and Lou’s innovative, albeit at times jarring, narration and visual style foreground the insufficiency or instability of either the homegrown melo~ drama or the imported noir form in giving expression to the complex social ' experience and psychological baggage of the new generations. In watching Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River the vieWer hesitates to determine which story in the “eitherlor” structure is more reliable, because beneath the surface symmetry there is structural asymmetry and inequity. And the closure of a I happy ending is out of the question in either film_each is possessed by a deep . sense of fatefulness, a distinctive noir feature that strangely dovetails with the I‘ Chinese Buddhist—influenced perspective on desire, life, and death. A faint ' sense of consolation comes from elsewhere, where it is conveyed, as Rey Chow '_ states, by “an alternative temporality of community,” however “mythic” it may be.48 These films are not about two equaliy divided selves but about I forms of succession and extension; not about reunion but about an open, almost superstitious belief in afterlife; and not about reconciliation but about transmigration and transformation. In the absence of a happy ending, both films suggest something moree—in the form of eternal returns, discontinuous continuity, and life after death—while accomplishing a cinematic anatomic operation of the fin-de-siecle Chinese urban life. PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEOGRAPHY, AND A TACTILE CINEMA Despite their social and historical resonance, Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River - are not copies of Sister Flowers for the chief reason that the two contemporary filmmakers consciously engage the act of cinematic narration by inserting the figure of the photographer/videographer in tandem with the figure of the phantom sister.49 Considering the extent to which the end of the twentieth century Was an age in which new information and audiovisual technologies, . after several decades of near stagnation, began to inundate and penetrate everyday life in China on an unprecedented scale, the reemergence of twins Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 369 and doubles on the screen is all the more thought provoking. Unlike the I " double exposures and mise—en-scene elements such as makeup and 1:56? conceal the double identity of Hu Die in Sister Flowers, the presence if fswt eras in both Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River does not simply serve diengtri fun ' ' ctions. Rather, on a metanarrative level such presence mediates or triggers = the magical transformation of virtual twinhood. This metanarrative quail 1llustrates Deleuze’s notion of “fab ulation” (re’cits; a form of storytelling that is performative 1n the philosoPhical as well as the theatrical sense”) 3 central to a m1nor cinema.” It is “an act of telling inseparable from the" t1me of enuncration,” which “gravitates” between the documentary and the fictional.50 The self-reflexive impulse in these tw0 films distinguishes itself from ‘ kind of “do ' ” ' cumentary impulse detected by Yomi Braester in several main- stream commercial films about the demolition of cities, the destruction of' communities, and the “real—time nostalgia” produced by the diegetic camera such as is found in Stand Up, Don’t Stoop and Shower.51 While the “docume 5'“ I '- tary impulse” in these commercial urban films is by and large cont ' nd ' Within the realist conventions and melodramatic formula (albeit someililg; with a touch of parody for constructing a more or less illusory world) and couched in 1deological security, Wang’s and Lou’s experimental films are part i of an effort to create an alternative cinema with an avant—garde spirit Their I visual style, liberally blending art cinema and pop idioms (from MTV kara I oke, and computer games), is made up largely by a synergic use of noirish ‘ lighting (particularly emphasizing shadows and neon-lit night streets) '0 tling camera. movement, jump-cuts, closewups and extreme-close framinS- long takes, direct address to the camera (and audience), discontinuous d'g, mg, shifting color schemes, and a contrapuntal and pastiche soundtracke rill of these elements create a plasmatic and tactile surface and a roller coaster? '- I g ' . i] ke V CWHI EXIJEIle] [(16 Such. a £01111 exempllfiES Deleuze Sees as the d] ECt Elllle-IIIlage Seeks ICStOIe E11116, aild thought, to CSHBma Be- cause thought here is no longer the domain of abstraction but rather a hil sophipal sensorium, a machine or body “without organs,” p 0- afiecuvity and transformation. In this regard the visual style of these films c ' be understood as a transposition of the sense of loss and doubt permeatiiin the society onto “mannerism and style” through noir-inflected idioms; 37o ' ZHANG ZHEN it is capable of ' ‘ "thereby exposing and commenting on the prevalent epistemological and :moral unCertainty that has overwhelmed a postsocialist consumerist China. There is a perceivable skepticism toward the truth value of the technologi— Weally reproduced image that informs and structures both films, yet each is -=permeated with a paradoxical scopophila and delight in capturing, photo- graphically or videographically, the strange beauty of the “flow of life,“3 be it the smelly Suzhou River or a container of developing agent (in a bathtub full of floating pictures in the photo studio in Lunar Eclipse). Lunar Eclipse is in particular a story about light andshadow, the essential material of photogra- phy and cinematography. In addition to the amateur photographer Hu Xiao— bin, Ya Nan is also an avid picture taker whose video camera functions as her prosthetic arm and eye, whether in public or private realms. Walking on the streets she tapes couples dancing the tango (a form of mass selfuenjoyment and the quotidianization of Western culture). At home, she documents her husband’s Sleepwalking and obsessive shoe polishing (a sign of domestic neu- rosis). After finding the photographer snapping her image during their excure sion to the country, she captures him and returns her gaze through her video camera. ThroughOut the film, there is a sustained competition between multi- ple photographers and their different technologies. Photography serves as the crucial medium of communication or miscom— munication across the perceived class divide in Lunar Eclipse. Ya Nan visits the photo shop, called The Origin of Beauty Creative Studio, where Hu Xiaobin works directing and shooting wedding albums_a trendy and profitable busi— ness in urban China today (which the film parodies on several occasions, including Ya Nan’s own wedding). Hu shows her the darkroomeeand the magic of photochemistry~where she later will encounter lia Niang’s blown- up image, her phantom other. The photographer serves as the medium in . bringing Ya Nan face to face with her look—alike but then vanishes from Beijing altogether. But is Iia Niang’s larger-than—life image believable? In the same room Hu and his boss have doctored the funeral picture of Hu’s father who died the moment his only picture has been taken by his son (as if photography triggered the death). in the remainder of the film Ya Nan is stalked by a stranger, who follows her in sinister dark alleys and takes her photograph. The flashes from this unidentified photographer’s camera be— come a kind of optical rape, parallel to or echoing the violence done to lie. Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters ' 371 :‘ Niang. The title of the fi] . m: Lunar Eclipse, ‘ ' comm: Phenomenon, -‘medium—-Hu Xiaobin with photography (e5pecially his old camera) and Ya an with video—seems further to underscore the “decline of photography” between li ht = ' an I I.) - g d darkness’ th (or loss of aura) 1n the face of ever “perfected representational technolo- hthe material and the immaterial. It is also an alley t e feminine (yang) radiance and “negative” energy. n 1 ' r1 Chinese cosmology are here transmitted to visible and the inv' ' 1s1ble, 3017 for women’s fate; i gies.” Yet Ya Nan’s penchant for videography seems also connected to her extraordinary sensory capacities, which not only aligns her with He Xiaobin Cinematic universe, illuminating the “all-1386» of WOm , ‘ the -- I but also makes her a competing narrator in the film. World- en 5 place 111 the social The deployment of video in Suzhou River is more integrated into the narra— As a WhOle’ tive and at the service of a gender orientation that invokes classical film noir. the ho ' . a i i l l. ) 2 r P . tOgIaPhlcal 1m gCS n t e a m, m0 Ed for tI 03C I l - y Dye narratlon, Cal‘l‘ a Certaln and a Sense I 0 never telling their entire stories and at ‘ The disjointed story is told through a male videographer (“I”) who remains invisible (eXcept for his hands) throughout the film. Despite the combination ‘ of footage shot for two rv-films, the edited feature, in using a consistent male voice~over, implicated yet detached, gives the film a more salient noir inflecu tion. The copresence of a messenger’s and a videoman’s love for the “same” - . ‘ woman molds to ether while also deconstructs two kinds of American male the image and its absent referent. The}, 8 of stasis and movement (the film is full 5 nd lie, and life and mortality, noir protagonists in the postwar period: the “cool” criminal in the “criminal- . adventure thriller” and the “tough” investigator in the “investigative thriller,” . respectively. Frank Krutnik, in his study on noir and masculinity, defines the “criminal” hero as “a male overachiever who seeks through his defiance of the of sudden freeze-up images), truth a law to set him above it, and to set himself in its place, as omnipotent.” “His daring gamble against the delimitations of his place within culture, under the law, repreSents a transgressive fantasy which is marked, in multiple ways, by the inevitability of its failure.”56 The investigative hero, on the other hand, is embodied as the “private eye” who “occupies a mediating point between the memory bank. What does videography, and cinema, 6 and worlds of crime and legitimate society. He proves himself by his ability to the postmodern hybridization of Phomgraphy Withstand any challenges to his integritymand to his very status as the active stand for in these two films? In Lunar Eclipse we find vid eo home Video C u E! We as 011 the Illultlple SC ee [S 111 Publlc Space, 111Chldulg WiIEIE tile SIlIIluil laCklflg HI llel IIIaII e. 1 a 6 Show 5 P 0 N)“ H I hf ( m gES 0n the SCIEEII tile]: EX I S 1‘ hero (i.e., to his masculine professionalism, or his professional masculin— ity).”57 Suzhou River departs, however, from either of these classical noir subgenres precisely in selectively scrambling two strands together while in- jecting a free dose of the ghost story genre ingrained in Chinese narrative and dramatic tradition. The videographer is not only an illegitimate investigator (due to his ama- ' teur status-ethat is, he was hired to make a promotion, not an investigation), , and even the pas: - )inalifeofb ‘ p 1n 6 t. h oredorn or d ' - m n. l e Video footage, however, shows either the atrophy of 1:11:52; Od’E ‘ l'y ay he is also an absent hero. Despite his disembodied voice-over, elements such as the unsteady, intrusive video filming and the visibility of his hands foreground him as en embodiment of the video camera. His obsessive {paid or unpaid) filming wherever he is present creates an impression that the world itself has Urban Dreamscupe, Phantom Sisters - 373 ’re making a movie, you’re impacting the world that yOu’re filming, which ' turn impacts you. It can be a dangerous position.” Yet this danger is not entirely futile because it is invested with a possibility for creating connection, as. manifested in the fleeting romances in the film. Lou concedes that using .mrnantic elements in a film can “evoke real emotion.” “In real life there is little romance of any real quality—you need to evoke it, just like when you’re , watching or making a film.”50 Obviously, despite their noirish vision and a touch of nihilism, both Wang and Lou share a conviction in cinema’s capacity to create a new order of ‘ reality—a dimension of evoked memory and felt affect and connectivity. Pho— tography and videography in the films may at times carry with them a sense of “reification as surveillance apparatus or instruments of alienation. However, the ubiquity of photographers and videographers is not so much a cynical record of the rampant industry of mass images that has changed China be yond recognition as it is a meditation on the pervasive impact, destructive as 'well as transformative, of these imaging technologies on the human mimetic faculty. The films are hardly suggestive of a nostalgic return to some pre- reform era, technologically impoverished state, but rather are hard at work to mobilize these old and new media, through their encounter with the lives of phantom sisters, for the revivification of cinema and its power to restore sensory affect and mimetic faculty. In the films the men and women with a camera move in various (narrative or literal) vehicles on the “two-way street” ofa mimetic race,61 alternately being the subject or object of photography and videography—that is, as passive witnesses or intervening agents in “accidents” that seem beyond their control yet always are fatefully rewarding in the form of doubles and returns. This explains in part both films’ genreebending qualities that blur the boundaries between the representational and the reflex— ive, as well as the qualities of intermittent humor and warmth, especially when the diegetic photographers and videographers try to get closer to their object of love or observation (often literally through zoom-in and extreme taken on a “videographic face” (to play on Kracauer’s famous comment‘s photography).58 Video services such as his are in urban China today as co mon as Lunar Eclipse’s The Origin of Beauty Creative Studio; amateur vide" ographers are routinely hired to shoot weddings, funerals, and birthday par ties, and to make advertisements. But here, the videographer’s matter-of—fact business assignment quickly turns into a subjective exploration of the enigm surrounding Meimei, the mermaid girl. As the line between her identity and . that of Mudan begins to blur, the distinction between the videographer and ": Mada (which literally means a motor or engine) begins to dissolve as well. If” Meirnei is a ghost from the past, and her only purchase on the present is the - fake peony tattoo on her left thigh (as on Mudan’s—a tactile yet disposable .- inscription on the body), how real and alive then is the videographer who intermittently slips in and out of Mada’s body and mind? As many point-of- view shots are taken from the camera mounted on Mada’s motorcycle, the two “machines” do share one body, or a “body without organs,” as it Were. We" cannot help but wonder if Mada has reinvented himself as the videographer ‘ just as Mudan seems incarnated in the mermaid girl. The identities of the two 5 pairs of doubles, female or male, do not refer to literal persons with fixed social . profiles, but rather are immanent bodies in the process of becoming-other or transformation. Each is the simulation, not copy, of the other, and whose identity as a “body without organs” consists of a “bundle of virtual affects” ‘ and constant “flights” or movement between I and the Other.59 Lou Ye is not interested in solving the enigma about the two women as would a typical noir investigative hero. Ultimately his intent is to compose a i love poem, a Baudelairesque “fleur clu mal,” about a river, a city, and the impossible task of giving both a total representation. If Wang Quan’an allows the cab driver to dream of becoming a cinematographer and even to act heroically on behalf of )ia Niang, Lou Ye’s darker urban vision makes Mada a . betrayer and the videographer an unreliable witness and lackadaisical lover who even lacks Mada’s intensity. Lou, however, makes a point by framing the I close-ups). More important, a cinema that holds the potential to not just provide _ solace but also to restore affect to a bruised humanity is a sensuous cinema that touches and moves the spectator, teaching people to “cry again.”62 It is a cinema of the body instead of abstraction or illusion.63 The tactile quality is often literalized through the films’ emphasis on touching and embracing. voyeuristic film as a whole through a videographer’s viewfinder in order to ' show a trace of sympathy if not intervention. This absent hero unwittingly helps Mada to find Mudan, although he himself lacks the commitment to . search for Meimei when she vanishes in the end. Yet his business assignment has turned into an epistemological adventure all the same. “Voyeurism and I hiding behind a camera are not the same thing,” emphasizes Lou. “When ' ZHANG . 374 ZHEN Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters ' 3,75 is believing. Tactility is the conduit of affect in Suzhou River as well The as mentioned above, i ' work of the filmmaker behind him); ' maker’s i ' ' ' ' I . nSistence on exposmg the materiality and labor of cinema Thes h . . ands do the work of posting a Video services Sign, receiving a paged call an by shooting a job at the “Happy Tavern,” but they quickly move on to engage in 'the courting of Meimei. They clap her hands, a popular a ' ‘ I‘ children; they stroke her hair While lovinle Watching/shootin ieme among- face. The images are so close and vivid that they seem on the v: r Sfens‘u‘lus out of the screen. We as viewers feel pulled toward her and the scrge O bsplumg ‘ bodyless hands as though they have become our own prosthetic: eihey 13:6 ' Suzhou River: Tactile contact. front car window caressing the dreamy faces of the young couple. The flame turns out to be the reflection of the neon lights from the theater and street.‘55 In this heartwarming moment, the artificial flame fueled by the city and the celluloid world not only rekindles hope and love in the wounded and numbed, it also seems to melt the glass and the car. Conversely, it could also be the intensification of the emotion and the warmth of two bodies in touch with each other that reconnect them with the elements of the phenomenal world. Indeed, Hu Xiaobin’s cab, the China—made yellow miondi (now obsolete), - which used to be driven by his father, magically turns into a furnace of love, in obvious contrast to the luxurious but ever so cold red sports car owned by Ya Nazi’s husband. (Its convertible cover has been stuck when the three meet on that freezing cold day.) The “flow of life” is in this moment given back its concrete form of ceaseless motion and metamorphosis. The commingling of the couple’s cinephilia and the “process of materialization,” figuratively rendered in this scene, would exemplify for Kracauer (and in the words of Miriam Hansen) the “aesthetic possibilities of film to stage, in a sensory and imaginative form, a fundamental experience of the twentieth century—an experience that has been variously described in terms of reification and alienation, fragmentation and loss, but urban legend with a measure of warmth and affect The redemptive power of a tactile cinema is enca Lunar Eclipse, I psulated in a key scene in I when the line between cinema and reality is dissolVed. After Iia Nia ' ' ' ' fi ng and flu Xiaobin mat a movre theater~the site where they had met th rst ' e . time and where they have now Just seen Ethnic—they enter a conversa dogs thus find each other on the brink of a Hollywood manufactured virtual catast ' rophe as well as on another real one in store for them in the streets of 64 . . . . . Beijing. ,Sitting 1nSlCle his cab parked outside the theater, Hu Xiaobin affir Iia Niangs ambition of becoming a movie actress and Iia ms With encouraging him to be a cinematographer. While t their ten-year plan to realize this dream, Niang reciprocates - hey are excited by a flickering flame slowly rises on the 375 ‘ ZHANG ZHEN Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 377 surrounds and tra Window, as if watcfipiorgis idem. We watch these cinephiles, through the car in a film] “If the work? haSub mg but doomed romance of this young couple have been prawn O h icome a bad movie,” like the circumstances th t g n t em, a true cinema can coritribute to giving us bac: reasons ' ' to believe in the world and in vanished bodies ”57 l'llS fl :I 5‘ SC 1 l 6 Ex] Ve Elle desplte the absenCe Ufa dlegEtIC Galilela CI Stalhze S the emer enc . pOintmeft ' e 1olfahhyperreal dimension in these recent art films Th d. In t e ere and now . . e lsap_ 1s swept b a - . transformed . I ‘ Y passion for a Elma i love boat} threalllY (as embodied in the glow that turns a shabb gbH‘Ed or a C3 1 lodged Withint defealslhe atrophy of the present. It is a utopiiin moi-11:0 a agent in C t-Yet revrsing the present. Cinema serves as a crucial m d' em rea mg a new plane of . e 121tng - . erce tron on h‘ h . , _ lived - P P w 1c the limit socml ream)” as well as the distance between it and the wo ldatmns Of the r and overcoming that reality, re~ . 0f narratin enchanted dimemi ' ls exposed and challenged simultaneously. Th: on is enabled by an attempt to both reveal the alien t d a e 378 ' ZHANG ZHEN experienCes of the underdogs or victims 0 {Generation village 0 the Fifth Generation’s canon, Itio temporality of contemporary urban life. The ra Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River lies in their in of the social presant and find its antidote, hence the conscious, almost formal experimentation for achieving a new (or renewed) level of ptual and experiential plane, the d a poignant allegory for the era antic, 'sory experience. On this heightened perce antom sister is at once a real social actor an “transformation.” NCLUSION e arsenal of filmic vocabularies and narrative vehicles mobilized by these cent experimental films to restore the body and senses to the inchoa’te f the era of reform and globalization 'tself from the kind deployed in some of the innovative Fifth films set in an illusory narrative world, be it a remote mountain r a mythical past. If stasis and contemplation constitute the keynote in the experimental cinema of the Urban Genera- 'n is marked by motion and a heightened awareness of the ephemeral dical contemporaneity of both sistence on introducing a dif~ ferent politics and peaks of phenomenology. in choosing the phantom sister as a compounded figure of the present and the past, both incomplete and overlapping, they are registering the unevenness of development and the casualties inflicted by the ideology of progress while reaffirming the tenacity of social memory, aided and processed by various sensory prostheses. From a broader perspective in world film history, these films contribute to what Deleuze called the “direct time-image.” The p spirit to and embodiment of such an alternative film image: “The phantom which has always haunted the cinema, but it took modern cinema to give a “3 Undoubtedly, their visual style and narrative tech« body to this phantom. nique (including the figure of the double) are by no means original home- tion, emu- pes. Their originality comes rather from their identifica hantom sister is thus a kindred grown reci lation, and, more important, transformation of contemporary a within a global spectrum, heralded by people with different cultural origins and personal styles, particularly those such as Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Hou I-Isiao—hsien, Wong Kar—wai, and Kiarostami who come from the former Socialist bloc or non—Western countries. The cosmopolitan outlook of these and other rt cinema Urban Generation films, Urban Dreamscnpe, Phantom Sisters - 379 imported mass images and storytelling formulas represented by Hollywood, but rather actively engage and transform them in order to tell stories about their generation in their own language. Along these parallel and at times intersecting trajectories, Lunar Eclipse and Suzhou River stand as a pair of remarkable signposts in the transformation of Chinese cinema at the turn of a howev concepiilijitoibscuée our recognition of their local conditions. elm m f , an reception. These filmmakers may now befia: nOtagbl (E: “313’ and have almost unlimited expOSure to world cinem by Magaps 13:31:83: inexpensive but legally dubious VCD technology (hinted. however, the” Primapratc ing of Pirated vcos in Suzhou Riyar). It remains- Ciety‘ Thej preoccupation to portray contemporary Chinese r Cosmopolitan film languflge is intimately bound to the will new century. NOTES 'Many people contributed to the conception and development of this essay. Above all I thank Wang Quan’an and Lou Ye for our conversations, which first spurred my interest in writing this piece. I benefited greatly from my engaging discussions with Miriam Hansen, Torn Gunning, Josh Yurnibe, and others at the Mass Culture Workshop at the University of Chicago on February 16, 2002. I also thank Magnus Fiskesjo and Charley Leary for their comments on an earlier version of this essay. 1. The vet: version of Suzhou River that I own is produced by the Hong Kong— based Winson Entertainment Distribution Ltd. vco is notorious for its untrust— ality, especially the pirated versions that are routinely sold in black lif t - tothat has made him the filmmaker he is today. In the early 19805 aft . ,- I trance Where he fell in love with cinema, he applied to the1 L er aim?" n . S mute and was acceP’EEd there. But upon departure he realizeclotll I at th ’ ab:euf:h€:11ght learn how to make a film at the institute he would nev (C 5) ) e I I I make a g: e a fiZeal French film, and later would probably not be ab]: If. 'l inese rn, either. As a result he 0 d ‘0':- th B v , pte not to go. While st d ' I ca 1eledeuing Film Academy, he also came to the realization that many :flling 3; films great Chinese films were replete with “dead and false emotions“ “T130; are neither about my life nor about those around me They ha ese . ve very worthy qu markets both inside and outside of China. . 2. Gilles DeleuZe, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 206. little to do with us and our ' . perception of contemporary life, even less with our I 3.1bid., 195r96. Japanese, and other 4. A number of retrospectives or selections of European, international art films took place in Beijing and Shanghai in the 19803. The Beijing Film Academy and other film-related cultural institutions have more regular ac— cess to classical or contemporary world cinema as a whole. In the 19905, cheap vco technology further popularized (or “copied”} the archives of international art cinema as well as the Hollywood blockbusters. 5. Interview with Wang Guan’an, June 13, 2000, Beijing. 6. Siegfried Kracauer, From Dr. Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947). See especially the section (pp. 28—31) concerning the doppelganger figure in films such as A Student legit}: 21:32:"; of the Cinematic aesthetic [experience].” He thus decided about China yet also :gonefs1 that would give expression to a kind of “truth” Chinese critic Chen Xia out umanity at large and about film as art.69 In the grasp of the “material S:mipgs view, Lunar Eclipse’s subjective lens and firm temporanei ” (d d use (zhigirn) accomplishes a higher degree of “con- ty ang aixmg) and nativeness” (bentaxing) than those Fifth 5) G61] ration fill-I). V ‘ S hEaV COClECl 5 0f tIadltlon and Ila V e 11 W1 till a]. lleIII t1 ism. The tru ' ' e nativeness is really contemporaneity, revealing the living p res- ent in ' ' ' a changing, complex discurswe environment “70 ofPragae (1913). 7. The term used above is borrowed from Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997 {1975] ). The anxiety is caused by a simultaneous desire to emulate predecessors and to surpass them. 8. It has been a common practice to assign graduates jobs in their hometowns or native provinces. Since Lou is from Shanghai and Wang is originally from Yan’an in Shanxi Province, it was only “natural” for them to go back to where they came T - . A idiofili:c;:::id:y:fi:y :1 Ed liltemauonal art film language and Postmodern POP melOdramafic elemenfcglslion or a filter to reactivate, albeit unconsciously, classical can 5 at can be traced to films such as Sister Flowers 0 makers are of tales of the strange. While these Urban Generation filmr of the past als; :gda new chapter in Chinese film history, the cultural lega n 5 them and asks to be reprocessed and renewed. On the: 1’ h 11 S S l‘ W 3 b ' i H he a (l a H. 3 scene In Lima? Eclipse after . Titanic, these in ‘ novative filmm . . . . . akers do not necessarily reject in total the 9. Filmed-for-Tv is anew trend in contemporary Chinese “film” culture that gives 380 ' ZHANG ZHEN Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 381 . ‘ t1 oi \he‘ooog \tx Gthesfi) theme aoh‘h'ehzt Ghana's, Pmt'erdtous: . Sdn‘tto’phren‘m Monteaoohs-Klowets‘xt‘y othlhooesota‘étess,t9%3\ . opens Ks oaths adoptei‘s horn homette mesons Douhle L‘w es, Second young filmmakers a chance to work in a medium with ess. pressure. Guan Hu’s unreleased Yexingren (A walker-by nigh of a deranged young man set in Shanghai, is part of the abo‘r ediSu 10. Dennis Lim, “Voyeur Eyes Only: Lou Ye’s Generation Nerf,” November 4, 2000, 140. At the question and answer session after the-‘- Suzhou River at MoMA, Lou Ye mentioned that on-location shooting was part constrained by the difl'iculty of obtaining permissions from local autli the use of a handheld 16mm camera and video camera considerably eased-the shooting in the alwaysabustling area of central Shanghai. 11. For example, Chen Kaige’s father is the famous director Chen Huaikai, and Tian Zhuangzhuang’s mother, Yu Lari, is a well—known actress and the head of the Children’s Film Studio. ' ' 12. In December 1997, the Film Bureau promulgated the document on regulations on “granting permission for single feature film production,” making it possible for - provincial and municipal Tv stations as well as film studios or related entities with I equivalent statue and capacity to submit scripts to the bureau for production . e an overview and assessment of. the documentary thou ement, whtdo abso ge'd in the t99os, see my introduction to this vohttne as we\\ as Coos Berni s essay. .Under the aegis of state feminism, all Chinese women were supposed to work. Over time, the freedom to work was ec ipsed by the imperative to work. for i and women had to work both outside and inside the home. lt thus e 19905 for certain women to choose to stay at home if nough to maintain a comfortable standard of living. For a soeiological study of the social and ethical characteristics of the emerging middle class in urban China of 19905, see Duan Yiping, Gaojihui: Zheng- -- guo chengshi zhongchan jieceng xiezhen [High-grade grey: A portrayal of the Chi- ” nese urban middle class] (Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 1999). 2.4. The head-shaking dancing seen at the discos could be a covert reference to the ‘ young drug users called yaotouzn, or the “tribe of head—shakers.” f 25. The term is from ]. Baudrillard, Fatal Strategies (London: Pluto Press, 1990), g- 70. ‘__ 26. Her need for sisterhoo j girlfriend trapped in domestic Ya Nan drifts away from the fr ” her own divorce. 27. Paul Schrader, “Notes on Fil V Grant (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 221. 28. Huang Shixian et al., “‘Yueshi’: Chufa Zhongguo dianying jianrui huatide xinrui zhi zuo” [Lunar Eclipse: A dashing work of a young director which has sparked a new topic of Chinese cinema] Beijing Dionying xuehoo [Journal of the Beijing Film Academy], no. 2 (2000): 32. 29. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the turn to capitalism in the former Eastern bloc attracted a large number of illegal migrants and traders from China who took advantage of the trans-Siberian railroad. 50. Or, to use Linda Lai’s term from her essay in this volume, “drifting.” '31. The basic story in Tang Xianzu’s 13 ion, or the souls’s return] from 1589 and a scholar she meets in a dream; eventually, him. The scholar later learns about her love for him and falls in love with the image of her in a self—portrait. He visits her grave and confesses his love for her. Moved, she returns from the nether world and reunites with him. Peony Pavilion is the site where this human—ghost love takes place. See Cyril Birch, trans, The I subsistence, .became fashionable in th their husbands made more than c permissions. 13. Wang Quan’an’s brief acting career includes a leading role in Zhang Nuanxin’s - Good Morning, Beijing (1990), presumably during his student years at the Beijing .. Film Academy where Zhang Nuanxin also taught until her death in 1995. '- 14. Conversation with Wang Quan’an, June 2001. 15. See Kai Yan, “Zhengjin yu ruili de ‘Yueshi’ ” [The sh0cking and uncompromis ‘ ing Lunar Eclipse], posted in November 2001 in the “movie” section at http:// www.movie.newyouth.Beida-Online.corn. ‘ 16. The film’s producer, Leonardo de la Fuente, is allegedly the author of this “genre” label. See Annette Insdorf’s Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of ‘ Krzysztof Kieslowski (New York: Hyperion, 1999), 12.3. For a detailed, compelling -: reading of Suzhou River in light of Hitchcock’s influence, See Ierorne Silbergeld, 1 Hitchcock with a Chinese Face: Cinematic Doubles, Oedipol Triangles, and China’s I Moral Voice (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004), chapter 1. 17. Hillel Schwartz, The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likeness, Unreasonable Foo similes (New York: Zone Books, 1996), 24. _ 18. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), 217—52; especially parts 2 and 3. For a brilliant read-' ing of Benjamin’s idea of the cinematic “innervation” of senses in modernity, see Miriam Hansen, “Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One—Way Street,” Critical Inquiry 25, no. 2 (winter 1999): 306—43. For an insightful investigation into the early conceptualization of cinema as modern magic, see Rachel Moore, Savage Theory:- Cinema as Modem Magic (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000). 19. Schwartz, The Culture ofthe Copy, 38. 20. This resonates with the identification of the schizoid, in particular, and the d is also expressed through her numerous visits to a woes. Over the course of the film, we witness how iend who has become bitter and nonchalant after rn Noir,” in Film Genre Reader II, ed. Barry Keith Mada returns from lay Moderating huonhunji [The peony pavil- surrounds the romance betWeen a maiden she dies out of unrequited love for 38a - ZHANG ZHEN Urban Dreamscope,Phontom Sisters ' 383 Peony Pavilion (Bloomin ‘ - gton: Indiana Urnvers' - ' th 1ty Press, 1980 . d _ - - . 0feaIflc-alrnale revenants, or the returned spirit of the dead 21:13:36 0 a _ » 1c . Ghosts 12:15 ihOEtS— See her. meodymg the Disembodied: Representatid Widmer and K6 en‘nrnne, in Writing Women in Late Imperial China ed ESE . 242-63 The <. Bing-1 Chaan (Stanford: Califi: Stanford University Piess .1 en SMZhWh. vcilrtual incarnahon of a vanished woman in both Lunar Edi) 9? Chinese (21:18:;1 lis t:1 and renfws.’ in my View’ the repermil’e 0f female reveiijagritml‘'i and boundlif $1111 niomen 5 history. The fascination with this tale seems agelfl'l'l ' e P 33’ W35 Siagfid in a fusion of Ch' es; _ 1 inc K postmodern scenography, at Lincoln Center in New York in :6 unclu opera and 32' 21b“ geld, Hitchcock with a Chinese Face 25—29 997- 33. arry Harootnnian Hisror ’ ‘ ’ ’ l - _ ) ys Dzsquzet: Modernity Cultural ' ' . a P '- lSI-aeSZrJI-thifivejryday Life (New York: Columbia University Press 2262:3663, and the ' 13 W1 esPread phenomenon and its 5 ' ’ ’17’ a , . . ‘ _ octal and 6ende ' ' ‘ gy ‘Mediating Time: The Rice Bowl of Youth) in fin :16 51‘ IIIIIgllcaUOflSI, see ablzc Culture 12, no. 1 (2000): 93_113I ec e rban China’s _T . . . . 35 his metaphor is exploned to its fullest in Zhu Wen’s DV feature Seafo d ( )l o 2001 . 36. The colonial administration in the con ' C - cessrons Chan ed this n - ishfihcfi: giants: it connects the ports in Shanghai to thegSuzhou relightsvhsi: ‘ . urban geogMpl-1i,cala,t pgrcela1n, and-other popular export goods. Accordin to ' and was d. l s u res, Wusongpang used to be larger than today’s Hua g trect y channeled into the ocean. See Li Tiangang Wenhna Shorts; , a: [Cultural Shanghai} (Shanghai: Shanghaijiaoyu chubanshe 1998) 252 59 . s (t ‘ I I l . 37 ee, Lou Ye. Zai yinginang de hehu shang” [Lou Ye: On the river of fil ‘ m1c . ima ' - -- songgZfl’dlfigaVG dESheyll’lgyz bu sahaang [My camera doesn’t lie], ecL Chen Q' 38 I HebemeS I: 1‘(fBei'nngz Zhongguo youyi chuban gongsi 2002) 253 g mg- -. . an, ert1g0_a_g0_ 0 and M ,u I ‘ 3 a . Village Voice, November 14, 2000, :1 Ore DEJa Viewmg: Eternal Return,» 39. For a brief yet pointed anal ' - ' ysrs of the cultural m ' ‘t n - 1 . eanrn of ' £3233: ind cultural productlon of the 19905, see Dai jinofiua ‘allfinglinnese j . _ . a a _ N C ' Duiirgfigmtimfind China, ed. Ar1f Dirlik and Xudong Zhargig (0113:: . .. ers1 ress, M . . i the 80am", Y 2000), 205 21, especrally the section “Emergence of 4.0- ’ T 1 '-'h.;= '-"{‘iVi; we 5 P 'A" A A l i m . . .o - la= ans! *ts It" as” ' ' ' ’ . . , . at on early ohmese a, see Zhong _ 2r; Wenmingv‘ , '- -1 .ed Plavl to W. y, r. l‘ilrn the 19205," ‘3 - restroom ticipatedin I _ I 7 - Song ,eiIlE the first I: ‘ .,.. . . .ci . in lite, angnoi. snerigya: Ha Die H I i. ..‘. sea _ .:.ema: Hu Die’s mem ' If. ‘ ‘ Alf Pi o1r] (Han 211011: 1 c tubanshe, 1986), 142—45; 163—69. Other parts of the Ingemoir 384 ' ZHANG ZHEN in several European cities. I "leftovng cinema ‘ conflict derived from a combin l the ‘May Fourth’ ‘ Fourth: Fiction and Ft Der-wei Wang (Cambridg '_ Ma Ning, “The Textual an ' Chinese Leftist Films of the 1930s, ‘ and literature. - along the Suzhou River. Flowers and another Mingxing scribe also the occasional exhibitions of Sister ny other veteran filmmakers sages, there also emerged a 1 and political issues of the clients in this radical cin- hniques of contrast and iywood cinema. In the early 19305, while Zheng Zhengqiu and ma ms with progressive and patriotic mes that more explicitly tackled the socia day. Class and gender inequality are the primary ingre .ema, which relied heavily on the representational tec ation of Soviet, European, and H01 See, among other writings, Paul Pickowicz, “Melodramatic Representation and Tradition of Chinese Cinema,” in From May Fourth to lime int in Twentieth-Century China, ed. Ellen Widmer and David e, Mass; Harvard University Press, 1993), 295—326; and d Critical Difference of Being Radical: Reconstructing ” Wide Angle 11, no. 2 (1989): 2231. Notably, a the arrival of rural migrants at the docks began to make fil ecurring motif in this urban cinema is _ 43. On the interplay betwaen star power and the fate of tragic female characters in Chinese silent cinema of the 19305, see Miriam Hansen, “Fallen Women, Rising Stars, New Horizons: Shanghai Silent Film as Vernacular Modernism,” Film Quar- terly 54, no. 1 (2000): 10—22. 44. The screening was part of “The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema in Trans— formation,” a program organized by Iia Zhijie and myself. Wang‘s remarks were re« dianying xunhuizhan zai Hafuo” {A touring ported in Wei Xin’s essay, “Zhongguo exhibition of Chinese cinema at Harvard],” Dajiyaan shihao [The epoch times], March 5»11, 2001, 2. 45. Stated in a presentation at forming Arts, New York, March 1, 2001. 46. See the essay in this volume by Xuepin marital affairs in contemporary Chinese society and its representatio the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center of Pet— g Zhong 0n the phenomenon of extra n in cinema 47. Wang’s Story of Er Mei (ling Zhe, 2003,) revolves around a girl’s attempt to I regain her virginity through plastic surgery. I ' 48. Indeed, Rey Chow’s nuance d reading of Stanley Kwan’s Rouge, also a postmod— ' ern film about a female revenant or “amorous ghost,” is germane to my interpreta— tion See Rey Ch “ Souvenir of Love,” Modern Chinese Literature7 (1993): ~75 «4;. ll" Art, and the Beijing 1 emphasis on the act of narra 50. D. N. Rodowiclt, Gilles Deleaze’s Time Machine (Dur sity Press, 1997), 15657. 51. See Braester’s essay in this volume. 0 .ndtable :; w -, ass-ion about the film organized by Popular Cinema, Film :im Studio, Hao Iian makes a similar observation on the 3 )3 tion. See Huang Shixian et al., “ ‘Yueshi, 3o. ham, N.C.: Duke Univer- Urhan Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 385 (a 52. Schrader, “Notes on Film Noir,” 221. 53. Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: T he Redemption ofPiiysicai Reality( ton University Press, 1997 [1960]), 71-72_ . 54. Eduardo Cadava, Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History(Prince- ton, N.I.: Princeton University Press, 1997), 11, 13. On the “make-belieVe” use 0 photography by the “spiritualists” in late—nineteenth-century America, see Tom Gunning, “Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations: Spirit Photography Magic Theater, Trick Films, and Photography’s Uncanny,” in Fugitive Images: 5 From Photography to Video, ed. Patrice Petro (Bloomington: Indiana University” Press, 1995), 42—71. - 55. Walter Benjamin, “A Short History of Photography” (1931), Screen 13 (spring 1993): 5—26- ' 56. Frank Krutnik, In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity (London: Routledge, 1991), 138. 57. lbid., 93. = 58. Siegfried Kracauer, “Photography” (1927), trans. Thomas Levin, Critical InT quiry 19 (spring 1993), 433- 59. Rodowick, Gilles Deienze’s Time Machine, 15455. 60. Lim, “Voyeur Eyes Only,” 140. , 61. The term “two—way street” is derived from Miriam Hansen, “Benjamin and Cinema,” 306—43. - _ 62. Walter Benjamin, “One Way Street,” in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, v 1, 1913—1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996), 476. On tactility as a recipe for innovation, see also Benjamin’s art work essay, especially where he discusses Dada. 63. On a general discussion on the tactile “body” of cinema, see SteVe Shaviro, The Cinematic Body (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). _ 64. Titanic’s phenomenal box office record in China in 1998 spelled disaster for Chinese cinema the year that Wang made Lunar Eclipse. Titanic took in 0.3 billion yuan out of the total Chinese market 0f1.44 billion yuan (which is loWer than any. previous year in the decade). The rest was shared by more than eighty domestic films and several dozens of other imported films. As quoted in Ying Hong, “Shiji zhijiao: 90 niandai Zhongguo dianying beiwanglu” [At the turn of the century: A memorandum for Chinese cinema of the 905], Dangdai dianying, no. 1 (2000): 32. _ 65. This scene is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in which Robert de Niro’s character, who has an ambivalent relationship to both the child prostitute and the we11~to-do woman, is framed in his cab whose windshield reflects the lights of the streets. My thanks to Charley Leary for pointing out this Connection, to me. I 66. Miriam Hansen, introduction to Kracauer, Theory of Film, xvii. 67. Deleuze, Cinema 2, 201. 68. ibid., 40. Prince 386 - ZHANG ZHEN . 9. Wang Quanhn, “W0 de dianying youguande Ifili” [My film-related resume], tiypescript. a ‘ . D _ . 0. Chen Xiaoming, “Fenglie de liliang: Cong ‘Yueshi kan xmdianymg de b1aoy1 eelue” [The Power of fission: A look at the ideographic tactics of new films from [lunar Eclipse], Beijing dianying xnebao [Journal of Beijing Film Academy], no. 37 (April 2000): 40. Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters - 3.37 ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 23

Week+10+Zhang+Zhen,+urban+dreamscape+suzhou+river - WARNING...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 23. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online