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A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

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Notes

1. Chinese saying quoted in Gina Marchetti, “Buying American, Consuming Hong Kong: Cultural Commerce, Fantasies of Identity, and the Cinema," in Poshek Fu and David Desser, eds., The Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 289-313.

2. I do not speak or read Chinese, and I’ve relied on a number of people who gave me good advice and information for this article: Jenny Lau, Ting Wang, Li Zeng, Evans Chan, David Li, Kin-yan Szeto, Kate Sullivan and Gina Marchetti. Any errors of interpretation are mine alone.

3. Her acting career began with the TV series “Mei mei ting wong” (A Recipe for the Heart) in 1997.

4. In Chinese “Uncle” and “Auntie” is a voluntary honorific title given to any older person, irrespective of familial relation which signals maintaining filial piety. Similarly, an elderly woman would be referred to as “Grandma” irrespective of whether she actually had grandchildren. Thus “Auntie Mei” signals the character’s actual age in relation to the narrative, and is ironic in that she actually appears to be about 35, the age of Bai Ling, the actor. The character’s full name is Yue Mei. The character accepts the title, although in fact she was an MD in China and by all rights could call herself “Doctor.”

5. These date from the early 1950s when a vast wave of immigrants from the Mainland arrived and lived homeless or in shantytowns and other marginal ways while working, typically, for minimum wages in light manufacturing such as clothing production. Public housing was a response to the social crisis.

6. An exception is the joking that sometimes goes on around fetal sonograms — increasingly common in monitoring pregnancy — and easily producing a video or still visual record. In turn fake images with an animated fetus doing impossible things such as dancing, eating and drinking, etc. can be amusing, even “cute.”

7. Of course medical practitioners had experiential knowledge gained from both living and deceased fetuses and mothers.

8. It’s not clear if those images resulted from a miscarriage or a deliberately induced abortion. Similarly, some demonstrators waved objects they described as human fetuses (in jars as with medical specimens; or in plastic bags with “blood” — if that’s what it was) as part of the theater of their events. sometimes claiming they had salvaged the object from the waste bins of a hospital or abortion clinic.. It should also be acknowledged that the antics of some extreme parts of the anti-abortion movement were disapproved by other parts. Waving a human fetus (or more likely an animal fetus) or displaying bloody pictures of them seemed to many to undermine the respect for human life that was the presumed motivation of the activists. Yet, in-your-face screaming at women entering clinics, death threats and assaults (including assassination in a few cases) against abortion providers were visible, publicly enacted, and often defended by members of the anti-abortion movement.

9. Sol Worth, "Pictures Can't Say Ain't," Studying Visual Communications (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 162-184.

10. In contrast, those who argue against stem cell research always want to use the loaded term “embryonic” before the phrase “stem cell,” to make the connection to human. However, visual representations of the source of those cells has to be avoided, since it just shows a hollow ball of cells (blastula), which can be identified as having “life” in the same way one-celled organisms do, but which, at this stage, has no plausible visual signs of being human in the present or in future development.

11. For readers outside the framework of U.S. culture: opinion polling has consistently shown a nearly equally divided public and electorate on abortion, with a large “middle” dubious about abortion as a birth control procedure combined with belief that such decisions should be private rather than subject to state intervention, which is precisely why neither side has been able to effectively and completely overrule the other side.

12. Rey Chow, Sentimental Fabulations: Contemporary Chinese Films (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).  Chow specifically discusses Temptress Moon, The Road Home, Song of the Exile, East a Bowl of Tea, The Wedding Banquet, Blind Shaft, The River, In the Mood for Love, Comrades: Almost a Love Story, Happy Times, Happy Together, Not One Less and ends with a short discussion of how Brokeback Mountain continues the sentimental mode.

13. Chow does not consider popular commercial works or genres such as legendary films, action, police/triad, romantic comedy, physical comedy, horror, musical, children and teen film, etc. Nor does she look at more independent or dissident work.

14. In her apartment there is a sign, typical of small restaurants, with her name (Yue=moon; Mei=enchanting, fascinating, charming) and “Ge” = attic, loft, garret” which is a picturesque name indicating a restaurant. Thus “Yue Mei’s Loft” indicating Mei as proprieter, or “Enchanting Moon Loft” as following the traditional Chinese naming for a business indicating something beautiful and/or fortunate. I have not been able to read the novella, which is not in English translation.

15. Other notable films he shot: Infernal Affairs (2002), Hero (2002), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), Temptress Moon (1996), That Day, on the Beach (1983).

16. Wendy Gan, Fruit Chan’s Durian Durian (HK: Hong Kong University Press, 2005) p. 53.

17. Gan, p. 56.

18. Ian Johnston, “Compliments to the Chef: Three … Extremes: Dumplings"
<http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/48/dumplings.htm>
Johnston makes two understandable errors: the mother does not die; she is found by the police in shock and splattered with blood after stabbing her husband; and the mistress works as a masseuse in the hotel. She is not of the same class as her client.


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