The China Through the Lens Film Series explored the history and art of Chinese cinema in different periods and geopolitical locations. All film screenings were complimented by lectures featuring prominent film scholars who will offer criticism and analysis. This series featured early Chinese cinema, Chinese film music across mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and contemporary Chinese independent cinema. This series was part of EAST 1270: China Through the Lens.
September 19 &20
Director, Asian Studies Program
Associate Professor, Department of History
State University of New York, New Paltz
Lecture: Shanghai Cinema behind the Scenes
China Through the Lens Film Series
WJT Mitchell in his book Picture Theory proposes that metapictures function to “explain what pictures are—to stage, as it were, the ‘self-knowledge’ of pictures,” much the way “idols, fetishes, and magic mirrors…. seem not only to have a presence, but a ‘life’ of their own, talking and looking back at us.’” Obscured by decades of war and revolution, the complex world of early Shanghai cinema now “talks and looks back at us” today through self-reflexive metafilms like the 1931 classic Two Stars (銀漢雙星), a motion picture that articulated the circumstances, assumptions, and even the new technologies of early film production in China. Two Stars vividly dramatized the process of filmmaking, inevitably prompting consideration of the medium itself while focusing some of the most contested issues in modern China—the relationships between tradition and modernity, stage and screen, silent and sound film, domestic and imported motion pictures, men and women, China and the West. For a recent comparison, we’ll also look at Stanley Kwan’s 1992 homage to the 1930s star Ruan Lingyu, Center Stage (阮玲玉).