film criticism


film criticism
Since 1979, film criticism in China has developed in two distinct ways. The first began with introduction of Western film theory and methodology which offered alternatives to the Soviet-style socialist realism that had dominated intellectual discourse on film since the 1930s. Bazin’s ‘realism’ and Kracauer’s ‘redemption of physical reality’ helped film circles of the 1980s break through the traditional Chinese concept of film which had been dominated by a combination of dramatic conflict characteristic of Hollywood and Eisenstein’s theory and practice of montage. The new concepts promoted the study of film as ontology and inspired a new generation of filmmakers after the Cultural Revolution. Later, film criticism broadened its theoretical scope to include the application of literary theory (structuralism, semiotics, psycho-analysis, feminism, neo-Marxism, postmodernism, post-colonialism and the like) to cinematic analysis, and also initiated a process of re-evaluating old films from the perspective of Cultural Studies. The second development in film criticism centred around a series of debates concerning the nature of film in Chinese society from which emerged an emphasis on film as an independent art form, thereby freeing film from its historical bondage to other literary, dramatic and theatrical modes, especially to the Huaju (spoken-drama) tradition. Such debates, which also underscored film’s entertainment values over its political relevance, helped create a significant number of exciting new films remarkably different from those made from the 1950s through the 1970s.
The most direct way to take the pulse of contemporary film criticism in China is to read journals on film as well as on literary and cultural studies published in the New Period. Among a number of periodicals on film, two stand out as serious journals of film criticism: Contemporary Cinema (Dangdai dianying) and Film Art (Dianying yishu).
Besides film journals, there have appeared some collections of articles on film. The most comprehensive one is A Collection of Chinese Film Theory (Zhongguo dianying lilun wenxuan, Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 1992) edited by Luo Yijun, a two-volume anthology that brings together influential articles from the birth of Chinese film to the 1980s.
Hu, Ke (1995). ‘Contemporary Film Theory in China’. Trans. Ted Wang, Chris Berry and Chen Mei. Screening the Past 3:65–73.
Li, Daoxin (2002). Zhongguo dianying piping shi, 1897–2000 [A History of Chinese Film Criticism, 1897–2000]. Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe.
Semsel, George S., Xia, Hong and Hou, Jianping (eds) (1990). Chinese Film Theory: A Guide to the New Era. New York: Praeger.
——(1993). Film in Contemporary China: Critical Debates, 1979–1989. New York: Praeger.
Zhang, Yingjun (2002). Screening China: Critical Interventions, Cinematic Reconfigurations, and the Transnational Imaginary in Contemporary Chinese Cinema. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
DU WENWEI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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