That Is Just How It Is

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2011 by amodernselkie

“… Chinese revolutionary rhetoric has often used bodily injury to invoke a sense of reality. Violence signals the place where where history hurts, and engaging in violence is tantamount to making history. In the restaurant scene, however, the bodily injury does not materialize.”

–Yomi Braester, “Memory at a Standstill: From Maohistory to Hooligan History”, 196.

The creation and presentation of violence in historical film is not the sole provence of Chinese Revolutionary cinema. Most violent action movies try to impart a sense of realism through physical sympathy – when someone is being physically brutalized, the viewer usually draws away slightly, instinctually repulsed. To use this to a films advantage is no new trick. However, I think that violence as it relates to the Cultural Revolution is complex. As Mary Ann said, no two people in China had the same experience of the Cultual Revolution. It  was a surreal experience for many, and one with many painful and confused memories attached to it. As such, I find the  breakdown of violence to manipulate the emotions of the audience in “In The Heat of the Sun” a fitting spin on the presentation of the Cultural Revolution. No one seems entirely sure what happened – it almost seems as if all of China went mad, only to wake up in a disillusioned daze a year or so after. The truth is more complex, of course, but nonetheless one that is just as hard to understand. For such a violent time, violence is a necessary method of portrayal. And yet, the chaos and instability of the time cannot be represented simply through violence. It is an ironic twist that turns such a standard presentation of Chinese revolutionary film into a comment on the period itself.

My question is, how do most people process the violence of the Cultural revolution? In the documentary we watched, most people seemed shocked and horrified witnesses. These was an unspoken understanding, often, that only so much could be talked about. “That’s the way it is.” Is idealism of this time common?


The Future is Bright & You Should Make Money

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1st, 2011 by amodernselkie

“The Gods of wealth enter the home from everywhere, wealth, treasures and peace beckon.” Zhongguo huabao chubansheg. 1993.

As I skimmed through the posters hosted on Chinese Posters site, this poster immediately caught my eye. It is exceptionally brightly colored (even among its primary-heavy compatriots) and the combination of dancing babies and old Confucian men made me look twice as I scrolled by. This poster was certainly good at making the viewer notice it. And once I’d started looking, the imagery kept me looking. This poster harkens back to the “old, confucian ways” – the old men in the background are smiling and happy, and also clearly well off.  All three men have Fu Manchu beards and are wearing clothing representative of Qing Court robes. The three men seem to represent the three stages of being a man; a young man to the left, a middle-aged man in the center, and a old man to the right. All hold fancy-looking objects, and all are smiling towards the viewer. Their bright colors lenda festive air to their countenance, and the middle-aged and older man both are wearing red robes; red is lucky, but also, in this case, might also be trying to lend a communist air to these overtly confucian men. The babies in the center also seem to symbolise prosperity; they are fat, smiling, and jolly. More importantly, they also carry money on top of a  pot of what appear to be jewels in their cubby little hands. Yen are placed on top of the American Dollar, and Chairman Mao’s face is in the center of the image. All of this points to prosperity – making money will gratify your ancestors, and make you a good communist and chinese citizen. Moreover,  wealth is being bestowed bestowed on China. The Gods of Wealth, the three men, are smiling down on China. China shall be prosperous, the poster says, and this is a good thing. To be rich is glorious, Deng Xiaoping said. This poster heartily agrees.

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