Presentation on theme: "Uses of Primitivism in Chinese Cinema 中国电影中的原始主义幻想与神话 Rujie Wang The College of Wooster."— Presentation transcript:
Uses of Primitivism in Chinese Cinema 中国电影中的原始主义幻想与神话 Rujie Wang The College of Wooster
“A World without Thieves” dir. Feng Xiaogang, 2004 Among other things, the film reveals a collective fantasy to redeem the present by a return to Nature and identification with the “primitive.”
What is primitivism? Identification with and idealization of the primitive, such as Rousseau’s idea of the noble savage Belief in a return to Nature as pristine and pure; Nostalgia and a romantic view of the past Contempt for and distrust of industrial- civilization as a source of evil and corruption Authenticity and simplicity as aesthetic ideals
“Serf” 《农奴》 dir. Li Jun 李俊, 1963 But in the 1960s, Tibet struck the Chinese imagination as hell on earth, and Tibetan Buddhists were viewed a species of barbarism that the civilizing mission of the Han people has a duty to raise to a higher plane.
Art and literature play a compensatory role in the formation of Chinese identity “Every period has its bias, its particular prejudice, and its psychic malaise. An epoch is like an individual: it has its own limitations of conscious outlook, and therefore requires a compensatory adjustment. This is effected by the collective unconscious when a poet or seer lends expression to the unspoken desire of his times and shows the way, by word or deed, to its fulfillment, regardless whether this blind collective need results in good or evil, in the salvation of an epoch or its destruction.” Carl Jung, p. 98 The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature
“Shower” 《洗澡》 dir. 张扬,1997 In the 1990s the ethos is Deng Xiaoping’s slogan: “to get rich is glorious” ; under the pressure to modernize, people began fantasizing (and exoticizing) the “primitive,” “backward,” and “savage” Tibetan life quite differently.
Primitivist aesthetic plays an important role to bring back into equilibrium a one-sided, unadapted, or dangerous state of consciousness Many recent films that adopt a sentimental approach to pre-industrial cultures lend expression to Chinese ambivalence to modernization.
“Cell Phone” 《手机》 dir. 冯小刚, 2003 Technological advances are blamed for inauthentic life and spiritual corruption; critical reflections on modern society are achieved and mediated through a romantic view of the past that never was.
“Postmen in the Mountains” 《那山那人那狗》 dir. 霍建起, 1995 A romantic view of primitive life serves as the discursive (intellectual) condition for resisting and thinking critically about China’s modernization project.
“Nuan” 《暖》 dir. 霍建起, 2001 Nostalgia as a motif in the service of critiquing modern man as split and fragmented, haunted and tormented by the binding memory of his primitive shadows and selves left behind.
“Not One Less” dir. Zhang Yimou, 1999 The critique of global capitalism often relies on the socialist ideals (or communalism) such as: all for one and one for all.
“Pretty Big Feet”, 《美丽的大脚》 dir. 杨亚洲, 1995 Poverty-stricken rural areas are seen as the breeding grounds for true love and compassion whereas modern cities the site and source of alienation and inauthentic life.
“Happy Times” dir. Zhang Yimou, 1993 Only selfless love and compassion redeem material prosperity and lead people to true happiness; without these genuine feelings that dignify humanity, individuals drown in the sea of wealth and affluence.
Together, dir. Chen Kaige Father and son leave Beijing and return to the countryside, giving up their quest for fame and wealth.
Primitivist Aesthetics in the 1960s and 1970s Communist fantasy of a primitive egalitarian community Mao’s revolutionary romanticism “it is easy to draw the newest and prettiest picture on a blank sheet of paper.” Glorify the “laboring masses” (workers, peasants and soldiers) Demonize aristocrats, intellectuals, landlords, capitalists/compradors The collective/public over the private /individual
“ Lei Feng ” 《雷锋》 dir. 董兆琪, 1963 The myth embodies the Chinese idea of a human being: a Christ figure, driven by love and compassion, a foot soldier fighting for the communist utopia where there are no thieves nor needs for material possessions
“The Pioneers”, dir.Yu Yanfu, 1973 Mao’s idea of the proletarian worker who embodies the collective will to conquer Nature by sheer resolve, and who represents the spirit of independence; based on the life of Wang Jinxi, a model worker in an oil field, also known as “Iron Man Wang”
“Bright Sunny Sky” and “The Golden Road” dir. Lin Nong, 1973, 1975 The fantastic image of a primitive peasant named Gao Daquan (tall, big and total/complete), invented to represent the collective spirit of the Great Leap Forward, a disastrous attempt to nationalize agriculture in which hundreds of thousand peasants died of starvation.
“Breaking with the Old Ideas” dir. Li Wenhua, 1975 Breaking with the Confucian idea of education as the basis for officialdom: 万般皆下品, 唯有读书高 ; 劳心者治人, 劳力者治于人 and adopting new criteria honoring the traits of primitive peasants with callous in their hands but no learning
Primitivism and (Chinese) Modernism Modern man and his primitive shadows; the primitive in us We as viewers need primitive fantasies as compensatory adjustments to our existence in an industrial civilization, with anxiety, anguish, inadequacy, fear and a sense of alienation Remark by D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville’s primitivism: “One cannot go back. Back towards the past, savage life.” But understand the many uses and meanings of man’s sentimental approach to archaic and pre-industrial cultures Western modernism (1880-1930): cubism, dada school, abstract painting, surrealism, minimalism, atonal music, etc.