Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films: Attachment in the Age of Global Visibility / Edition 1

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What is the sentimental? How can we understand it by way of the visual and narrative modes of signification specific to cinema and through the manners of social interaction and collective imagining specific to a particular culture in transition? What can the sentimental tell us about the precarious foundations of human coexistence in this age of globalization?

Rey Chow explores these questions through nine contemporary Chinese directors (Chen Kaige, Wong Kar-wai, Zhang Yimou, Ann Hui, Peter Chan, Wayne Wang, Ang Lee, Li Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang) whose accomplishments have become historic events in world cinema. Approaching their works from multiple perspectives, including the question of origins, nostalgia, the everyday, feminine "psychic interiority," commodification, biopolitics, migration, education, homosexuality, kinship, and incest, and concluding with an account of the Chinese films' epistemic affinity with the Hollywood blockbuster Brokeback Mountain, Chow proposes that the sentimental is a discursive constellation traversing affect, time, identity, and social mores, a constellation whose contours tends to morph under different historical circumstances and in different genres and media. In contemporary Chinese films, she argues, the sentimental consistently takes the form not of revolution but of compromise, not of radical departure but of moderation, endurance, and accommodation. By naming these films sentimental fabulations—screen artifacts of cultural becoming with irreducible aesthetic, conceptual, and speculative logics of their own—Chow presents Chinese cinema first and foremost as an invitation to the pleasures and challenges of critical thinking.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Midwest Book Review - James A. Cox
A thoughtful discussion of nine contemporary Chinese directors and their cinematic accomplishments.
Film Quarterly - Kristi McKim
Through Chow's perspective, the sentimental thus becomes a productive and promising concept for understanding national cinema.
The China Journal - Howard Y. F. Choy
Chow's scholarship is consistently superior in its provocative arguments for humanistic concerns and its impressive coverage of secondary sources.
Journal of Film and Video - Jie Li
Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films is a thought-inspiring work of scholarship.
Film Quarterly
Through Chow's perspective, the sentimental thus becomes a productive and promising concept for understanding national cinema.

— Kristi McKim

The China Journal
Chow's scholarship is consistently superior in its provocative arguments for humanistic concerns and its impressive coverage of secondary sources.

— Howard Y. F. Choy, Wittenberg University

Journal of Film and Video
a thought-inspiring work of scholarship
Library Journal

In her latest study of contemporary Chinese cinema, which encompasses films from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States, Chow (Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema) leaves behind theoretical avant-gardism and political correctness, instead delving into what she characterizes as "moderate sentimentalism." Chow sees moderate sentimentalism as an attitude of acceptance rather than one of explicit determination to reject and expel. Pictures such as Temptress Moonand Happy Togethermanifest the current trend to reflect joy and longing for a utopia existing only in the protagonists' imagination (as opposed to the traditional yearning to return home to family). Even protagonists who would have been disparaged in earlier films-the criminals, the disadvantaged, the handicapped-now receive more humane treatment, as seen in recent releases such as Blind Shaftand Happy Times. Chow's rich knowledge of Chinese films enables her to draw associations among myriad works, revealing details we might otherwise have missed. Because she looks beyond the casual interpretation of cultural phenomena, she captivates us with her challenging and refreshing arguments. Highly recommended for academic film collections.
—Victor Or

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231133333
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Series: Film and Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Rey Chow is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Comparative Literature at Brown University. She is the author of Woman and Chinese Modernity (Minnesota, 1991), Writing Diaspora (Indiana, 1993), Primitive Passions (Columbia, 1995), Ethics After Idealism (Indiana, 1998), and The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism (CUP, 2002).

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface and AcknowledgmentsNote on TranscriptionsIntroductionPart I: Remembrance of Things Past1 The Seductions of Homecoming: Temptress Moon and the Question of Origins2 Nostalgia of the New Wave: Romance, Domesticity,a nd the Longing for Oneness in Happy Together3 The Everyday in The Road Home and In the Mood for Love: From the Legacy of Socialism to the Potency of YuanPart II: Migrants' Lore, Women's Options4 Autumn Hearts: Filming Feminine "Psychic Interiority" in Song of the Exile5 By Way of Mass Commodities: Love in Comrades, Almost a Love Story6 All Chinese Families are Alike: Biopolitics in Eat a Bowl of Tea and The Wedding BanquetPart III: Picturing the Life to Come...7

Columbia University Press

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