JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes  

I would like to thank Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage for their editorial guidance, and Genevieve Fong and Eric Greenfeld for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

1. I am not an expert in Hong Kong cinema or the martial arts. However, I recognize Hollywood’s domination in the international film market and in film culture, and I observe and analyze how Orientalism serves as a framework in the reception of films made in Asia. My scholarly focus is in racial representation and feminism, and my work includes what I formulate as "New Orientalism," the transnational media form of which Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a part.

2. I am making an effort to make the word "hero" gender-neutral by using it to refer to women and men instead of using the derivative form, "heroine."

3. Kenneth Chan, “The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian (Chinese Sword-Fighting Movie): Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4.

4. In Sheldon Lu’s book, China, Transnational Visuality, Global Postmodernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.)

5. Aaron Anderson, “Violent dances in martial arts films,” in JUMP CUT: A Review of Contemporary Media, no. 44, Fall 2001.

6. A study of how Asian American audiences read and embrace Asian cinema, specifically the kung fu genre, would reveal relevant patterns of Asian American identity-formation and cultural pride. Their (our) response to the genre is veritably different than that of white audiences, I believe. I know from what students have told me, for example, that Bruce Lee played an important role in instilling a sense of masculinity and power for young Asian American men.

7. This often takes form in revenge for the unjust killing of a sifu, or a clan member.

8. The four cardinal virtues in Confucianism are these: filial piety, brotherly love, loyalty, and trustworthiness.

9. The primary inaugural text is Xiang Kairan’s Legend of the Strange Hero, published in Shanghai in the 1920s and taking film form for the first of many adaptations in the film, Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery (1928).

10. Kung fu is a term used mostly in the west; Chinese call the genre wu dar (unarmed martial arts) or wuxia (armed, mostly with swords).

11. Like heroism, how realism is adapted in different historical and political settings reflects certain societal desires. This in turn, reflects cultural viewing preferences. For example, “fantastique” swordplay films infuse society with notions of magical escape from social constraints, while the classic wuxia pian emphasizes a traditional style of fighting along with traditional, Confucian values. And the romantic or melodramatic martial arts films feature female protagonists, often with mystical powers and romantic involvements. In recognizing the varieties of ways and contexts in which realism is represented, we can begin to understand the nuances and situations in which women can become action heroes, and under what philosophical or stylistic conditions.

12. And also as in musicals, the fact of choreography does not hinder (and in fact, facilitates) the fact of the performance: the dance is done.

13. L.S. Kim, “American Orientalism and the Political Aesthetics of National Identity,” forthcoming.

14. David Bordwell notes that within the universe of swordplay and kung fun, often “there is not an appeal to the law; the hero must wreak punishment on those who have wronged him; he must rely on his friends and his master, an overt father-figure. If his friend or his boss betrays him, he is plunged into despair but his vengeance will be fearsome” (42, Bordwell). In other words, heroism in Chinese swordplay tradition is outside the law, and perhaps this also is what enables women (in a Confucian and patrilineal society) to become heroes.

15. Lu also describes Zhang as possessing a “gifted ‘Oriental’ sensibility.”

16. Personal communication, 5 April 2001.

17. Interview with James Schamus, Spring 2001, Berkeley, California.

18. Chiang Kai-shek banned films that combined martial arts with magic (89, Stokes and Hoover).

References

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