Third and Fifth Generation chinese film.

Essay by rjt55A-, September 2003

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Third and Fifth generation Chinese films

The "organization" of Red Sorghum (1987) rearranges the past, mythical and factual, to encapsulate Zhang Yimou's vision of "Chineseness." Rey Chow, in her book Primitive Passions, characterizes Zhang Yimou as appropriating a certain vision of a China past, to create a pragmatic version of China, accessible, that at the same time doesn't necessarily accurately depict China yet is pleasing to the viewer outside of that context. Zhang, through "absurd rituals and customs" (p. 145) rearranges the past into a modern vision, through extensive use of visuality and cinematic language. This modern rearrangement is not a context-less cut-up text, as we see in the novels of someone like Burroughs, but a glossed "dreamy" vision, which becomes a "timeless China (p. 145)." Chow describes this through a semiotic framework in which Zhang uses exaggerated, and often incorrect depictions of things Chinese, to become signs for China itself and thus become larger than mere events on a rural wine farm, or on a movie screen.

Chow uses Zhang's depiction of women as an example of this. She points out, as can be seen in Red Sorghum's many close-ups of Gong Li, that Zhang makes "a conscious and tactical mobilization of every kid of event toward visual display, a display that is most effectively achieved through women. (p. 149)." Though she points out that his "interest is not inherently in women's problems themselves, (p. 149)" but that he uses them as a lens through which to view Chinese culture. These signs construct a signified anthropological, ethnographic, and feminist view of China. It is this transformation, through Zhang's savvy with cinematic language, which turns the viewer into a "migrant". It takes them outside of the details of the narrative and gives them Zhang's specific vision of China...