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-the term “cinema of attraction” comes from Tom Gunning

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Presentation on theme: "-the term “cinema of attraction” comes from Tom Gunning"— Presentation transcript:

1 I. Cinema as Attraction, 1896-1921
-the term “cinema of attraction” comes from Tom Gunning -the earliest films in China were made by foreigners and shown as exotic spectacles -early films were called “western shadow plays” (xiyang yingxi 西洋影戏), recalling the ancient shadow play form (see images)

2 Lumiere Brothers camera/projector
Lumière Brothers and Edison films were shown in China as early as 1896 Lumiere Brothers camera/projector Short Edison film of a ballerina

3 Contexts for showing early films
“Western shadow plays” (xi yang yingxi 西洋影戏) were show in teahouses (below) and opera houses Or sometimes show as “peep shows” (above) Often part of “variety shows” (baixi 百戏)

4 Earliest Chinese films
-Fengtai Photography Studio (丰泰照相馆) was the first Chinese-owned studio to produce films -run by Ren Jingfeng (任景丰) -made operatic films, such as Dingjun shan (定军山; 1905), often considered the first “Chinese” film Tan Xinpei 谭鑫培 in Ding Jun shan

5 II. Cinema as Narration (1922-26)
-characterized by a rise of the narrative feature film by Chinese studios and directors and the new term yingxi 影戏 (shadow drama) -popular entertainment film dominates; strongly influenced by the Butterfly fiction tradition (鸳鸯蝴蝶派) -closely tied to “civilized drama” (wenmingxi 文明戏) Crew of the Asia Film Co., one of the early Chinese film companies

6 II. Cinema as Narration (1922-26)
-Asia Film Company (亚细亚影片公司) -established in 1909 as a “joint venture” among Benjamin Brodsky, Zheng Shichuan (张石川), and Zheng Zhengqiu (郑正秋) -films based on historical tales -and short comedies such as Nanfu nanqi (难夫难妻; 1913), considered China’s first “narrative” film -Zhuangzi Tests His Wife (庄子试妻; 1913) Top: still from Zhuangzi Tests his Wife; above: on the set of Nanfu nanqi

7 Emergence of Studio/Star System
-during the 1920s, we see the emergence of a system of studios that compete -stars generally contracted to particular studios and help define the studio brand -two dominant studio are: *Minxin (民新), est. by Li Minwei (黎民伟) in 1923 *Mingxing (明星), est. by Zhang Shichuan and Zheng Zhengqiu in 1922 -lesser studios: Great Wall (长城); Dazhonghua baihe (大中华百合); Shanghai Yingxi (上海影戏); Commercial Press Film Department (中国影戏研究社), etc. Top: Xuan Jinglin (宣景林); above: Wang Hanlun (王汉伦), became Mingxing’s first star after her performance in Orphan (1923)

8 May Fourth “enlightenment” influence
-Commercial Press formed a Motion Picture Department in and promoted “national cinema” (国片) -produced mostly documentaries, but also operatic films of Mei Lanfeng performances -and a few feature films like Yan Ruisheng (阎瑞生); 1921), a kind of “docu-drama” based on a real murder case of a “playboy” killing a beautiful Shanghai courtesan Still from Yan Ruisheng shows the playboy Yan with the courtesan Wang Lianying

9 May Fourth “enlightenment” influence
Tian Han, Silver Dream (银色的梦; 1927): cinema, as most powerful creation of humanity, can “stimulate minds to daydreaming. Dream is the free movement of the heart and it mirrors the sadness of the oppressive world”; -“The arts have no hierarchy; those whose forms suit the times will flourish, and those which go against the times will naturally make no progress. Today is the era of Democracy, and the scope for elitist art is narrowing. Much more populist than theater film is truly the art which most suits our time; it has much room for development and reform” (in Harris 1999: 71) -Dan Duyu (但杜宇) and Shanghai Yingxi Company produced, among other films, Sea Oath (海誓; 1922), China’s first “love story” -Tian Han (田汉) and psychological cinema -Hou Yao 侯曜 and art for life’s sake (e.g., Haijiao shiren 海角詩人 (Poet by the seaside) -Minxin 民新 Studio and “enlightenment”; produced 17 features, directed by Hou Yao, Bu Wancang 卜万仓, Sun Yu 孙瑜 et al. -Da Zhonghua baihe (大中华百合) and Shi Dongshan’s (史东山) “aestheticism”

10 feature film genres comedy: Laborer’s Love (Laogong zhi aiqing 劳工之爱情; dir. Zhang Sichuan 张石川, 1922) [CLIP] or The King of Comedy Travels to China (滑稽大王游华记; 1922) -family drama: Orphan Rescues Grandfather (孤儿救祖记; dir. Zhang Shichuan 张石川, 1923) historical theme or costume drama: Romance of the Western Chamber (西厢记; dir. Hou Yao 侯曜, 1927) [CLIP] scandal: Zhang Xinsheng (张欣生; dir Zhang Shichuan; 1922)

11 Ideology of Family Melodrama
-generally conservative manifestation of traditional values of filial piety, family stability -the family is the locus for the playing out of moral values critical to society at large -yet also drawing attention to social problems still from Orphan Rescues Grandfather (1923)

12 Vernacular modernity -Mariam Hansen (2000: 10): film provides “a sensory-reflexive horizon for the contradictory experience of modernity” -film in China at this time was at once a conservative reaction against the corruption of the city and modernity and a reveling in all that modernity has to offer (fashion, make-up, architecture, interior design, transportation, etc.)

13 III. Cinema and Speculations (1927-29)
A. general comments -emergence of Chinese national cinema, but dominance of market by Hollywood -increased number of studios competing feverishly, leading to many failures -importance of Nanyang as a market for Chinese films, given the relatively small number of theaters within China -break with foreign ownership -film and Shanghai

14 B. dominance of popular genres and styles
-costume drama: historical themed films (e.g., Romance of the Western Chamber) Right: Publicity magazine cover for 1927 film production Romance of the Western Chamber; left: still from Red Lotus Temple

15 B. Dominance of popular genres and styles
-martial arts genre (武侠) (e.g., Burning of the Red Lotus Temple [火烧红莲寺 si; dir. Zhang Shichuan, , multipart] or Red Heroine (红侠; 1929, dir. By Wen Yimin (see image right) -the former based on the novel by Xiang Kairan (向恺然), Jianghu qixia zhuan (江湖七侠传; 1928)

16 Conclusions -gradual sophistication of film techniques and development of complex narratives -searching for a Chinese film style (foregrounding of acting, close relationship to stage performance, little experimentation with camera movement, convoluted plots and coincidence); from xiyang yingxi to yingxi -yet continued dominance of Hollywood films on the market -tight relationship between film and theater world, as well as with literary field (esp. Butterfly literature) -growing nationalism in terms of film production and a relatively tight relationship between film content and larger social issues of -market and commercial interest dominate, but aesthetics and didactic concerns compete

17 IV. Pre-War Cinema (1930-37) Luo Mingyou
A. Emergence of Lianhua Studio -founded by Luo Mingyou 罗名佑 and Li Minwei 李民伟 as an amalgamation of two earlier studios (1931) -sought the development of a national cinema and of a cinema of social conscience -centralized operations of production, distribution, exhibition -hired several “progressive” or “leftist” directors and playwrights, including Sun Yu 孙瑜 and Bu Wancang 卜万仓 Lianhua No. 1 Studio in Shanghai

18 B. Leftist cinema -leftist filmmakers emerge in the 1930s as a response to (1) Japanese imperialism, (2) KMT “white terror,” and (3) the Nationalist ban on martial arts films -associated with the League of Left-Wing Writers (左翼作家联盟) -leftist playwrights “infiltrated” the studio system, in particular Mingxing, Lianhua, and Yihua -faced Nationalist censorship -sought to use film to draw attention to imperialism, class inequities and exploitation and to present a more optimistic spirit of collective struggle -leftist film also incorporated Hollywood style (e.g. Song of Midnight [夜半歌声]); sometimes an uneasy combination of the leftist agenda with family melodrama (e.g., Song of the Fisherman [渔光曲; 1934])

19 C. Continued Dominance of Hollywood
-in 1933, 82% of films shown in China were from Hollywood; in 1934, it was 84%; in 1936, 89% -dominance only in exhibition, not in production (i.e. “Chinese” films continue to be made)

20 D. Transition to Sound -studios and filmmakers generally receptive to sound, but lack of technology slowed the transition -early “sound” films often only had sound accompaniment (配音): records of songs used as musical accompaniment (late 20s, early 30s) -eventually full synchronized “sound on film” was adopted (mid-30s) -issue of dialect (Mandarin versus local dialects such as Cantonese) Above: still from Sing-song Girl Red Peony (歌女红牡丹, first sound film; 1930); right: poster for the film

21 E. Studio system and stars
Zhou Xuan 周璇 E. Studio system and stars -Shanghai film dominated by 4 studios: Lianhua, Mingxing, Tianyi (天一), and Yihua (艺华); they account for more than 50% of film production -female stars dominate Ruan Lingyu 阮玲玉 Li Lili (藜莉莉) Hu Die 蝴蝶

22 Mingxing Studio A. CCP influence primarily in terms of script
-realist, enlightenment, nationalist, didactic orientation B. peasant themes EXAMPLE: Spring Silkworms (春蚕; 1933); d. Zheng Bugao, s. Xia Yan 夏衍 C. worker themes EXAMPLE: The Cry of Women (女性的呐喊); d. Shen Xiling 沈西 苓; s. Xia Yan EXAMPLE: 24 Hours in Shanghai (上海二十四小时); d.Shen Xiling; s. Xia Yan D. Nationalist themes EXAMPLE: Street Angel (马路天使; 1937). d.Yuan Muzhi 袁牧之

23 Lianhua Studio A. Women Films
EXAMPLES: Sange modeng de nuren 三个摩登的女人(Three modern women). s. Tian Han 田汉; d.Bu Wancang Xin nuxing 新女性 (New woman); d. Cai Chusheng 蔡楚生 [CLIP] Shennu 神女(The Goddess; 1934) (d.s.Wu Yonggang) B. Male films and the new masculinity EXAMPLE: Dalu 大路 (The highway; 1934); d.Sun Yu 孙瑜 C. “Reactionary” EXAMPLE: Guofeng 国风 (Wind of the nation; 1935; silent). d. Luo Mingyou; a. Ruan Lingyu and Li Lili

24 1. Centrality of female images
F. Conclusions 1. Centrality of female images Ruan Lingyu as a prostitute in The Goddess (Shennu;1934) Ruan Lingyu 阮玲玉 stars in New Woman (Xin nuxing; 1934), a leftist film that forefronts the plight of the “new woman”

25 F. Conclusions 2. Progressive (leftist) filmmaking was not the only picture in the 1930s; popular films continued to be made; and as always, Hollywood films dominated the viewing public 3. not all films made by the “progressive” studios are “progressive” 4. leftist films also negotiated with the Hollywood style

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