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Chinese Tradition and Culture [Copy link] 中文

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Chinese Cinema

The Second Golden Age, the late 1940s


The film industry continued to develop after 1945. Production in Shanghai once again resumed as a new crop of studios took the place that Lianhua, Mingxing, and others had occupied in the previous decade. These included Xinhua, which by this time had become a dominant player in the industry, Kunlun Studios, and others. Many showed the disillusionment with the oppressive rule of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party. Myriads of Lights (1948), Crows and Sparrows (1949), San Mao (1949), and, most importantly, The Spring River Flows East (1947) are the classics produced during this period. The Spring River Flows East, a three-hour-long two-parter directed by Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli, which depicts the struggles of ordinary Chinese folks during the Sino-Japanese war, was immensely popular during its time, making social and political references to the period. The Wenhua Film Company, one of the two important production companies formed by left-leaning film-makers in the city (the other one being a re-established Lianhua), also contributed some of the masterpieces of this era.

Aside from a revitalized leftist movement, however, were films that illustrated the evolution and development of other dramatic genres. The romantic drama Spring in a Small Town (1948), a film made by Shanghainese director Fei Mu prior to the revolution, is often regarded by Chinese film critics as the greatest Chinese film of all time, including recently named by the Hong Kong Film Awards as the greatest Chinese-language film ever made in 2004,[3] as well as being one of the most influential (an acclaimed 2002 remake by one of the Fifth Generation Chinese film maker Tian Zhuangzhuang can also be seen).

Figure:
Movie poster for Spring in a Small Town
Spring_in_a_Small_Town_Movie_Poster.jpg
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Chinese Cinema

The communist era, 1950s-1960s

With the communist takeover in 1949, the government saw motion pictures as an important mass production art form. Starting from 1951, movies centering around peasants, soldiers and workers such as Bridge (1949) and The White Haired Girl (1950) were produced. One of the production base in the middle of all the transition was the Changchun Film Studio.

The number of movie-viewers increased sharply, from 47 million in 1949 to 415 million in 1959. Movie attendance reached an all-time high of 4.17 billion entries in that same year. In the 17 years between the founding of the People's Republic of China and the Cultural Revolution, 603 feature films and 8,342 reels of documentaries and newsreels were produced, sponsored as Communist propaganda by the government.[4] Chinese filmmakers were sent to Moscow to study Soviet filmmaking. In 1956, the Beijing Film Academy was opened. The first wide-screen Chinese film was produced in 1960. Animated films using a variety of folk arts, such as papercuts, shadow plays, puppetry, and traditional paintings, also were very popular for entertaining and educating children. The most famous of these, the classic Havoc in Heaven (two parts, 1961, 4), was made by Wan Laiming of the Wan Brothers and won Best Film award at the London International Film Festival. In 1956-7 and the early 1960s led to more indigenous Chinese films being made which were less reliant on their Soviet counterparts. The most prominent filmmaker of this era is Xie Jin, whose two films in particular, The Red Detachment of Women (1961) and Two Stage Sisters (1965), exemplify the growing expertise China has in the craft of motion pictures.
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Chinese Cinema

The Cultural Revolution and its aftermath, 1960s-1980s

During the Cultural Revolution, the film industry was severely restricted. Almost all previous films were banned, and only a few new ones were produced, the most notable being a ballet version of the revolutionary opera The Red Detachment of Women (1971). Feature film production came almost to a standstill in the early years from 1967 to 1972. Movie production revived after 1972 under the strict jurisdiction of the Gang of Four until 1976, when they were overthrown.

In the years immediately following the Cultural Revolution, the film industry again flourished as a medium of popular entertainment. Domestically produced films played to large audiences, and tickets for foreign film festivals sold quickly. The industry tried to revive crowds by making more innovative and "exploratory" films like their counterparts in the West.

In the 1980s the film industry fell on hard times, faced with the dual problems of competition from other forms of entertainment and concern on the part of the authorities that many of the popular thriller and martial arts films were socially unacceptable. In January 1986 the film industry was transferred from the Ministry of Culture to the newly formed Ministry of Radio, Cinema, and Television to bring it under "stricter control and management" and to "strengthen supervision over production."

The end of the Cultural Revolution brought the release of "scar dramas", which depicted the emotional traumas left by this period. Evening Rain (Wu Yonggang, Wu Yigong, 1980) and Legend of the Tianyun Mountains (Xie Jin, 1980) both won the first Golden Rooster Award in 1981. The best-known of these is probably Xie Jin's Hibiscus Town (1986), although they could be seen as late as the 1990s with Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Blue Kite (1993).
Blue_kite_poster.jpg
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Chinese Cinema

The rise of the Fifth Generation, 1980s-1990s

Beginning in the mid-late 1980s, the rise of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers brought increased popularity of Chinese cinema abroad. The first generation of filmmakers to produce Chinese films since the Cultural Revolution, they jettisioned traditional methods of storytelling and opted for a more free and unorthodox approach. Most had graduated from the Beijing Film Academy since 1982. A One And an Eight (1983) and Yellow Earth (1984) (directed by Chen Kaige and photographed by Zhang Yimou) in particular were taken to mark the beginnings of the Fifth Generation. The most famous of the Fifth Generation directors, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou went on to produce celebrated works such as King of Children (1987), Farewell My Concubine (1993), Ju Dou (1989), and Raise the Red Lantern (1991) which were not only acclaimed by Chinese cinema-goers but by the Western arthouse audience. Tian Zhuangzhuang's films, though less well-known by Western viewers, were well noted by directors such as Martin Scorsese. Extremely diverse in style and subject, the Fifth Generation directors' films ranged from black comedy (Huang Jianxin's The Black Cannon Incident, 1985) to the esoteric (Chen Kaige's Life on a String, 1991), but they share a common rejection of the socialist-realist tradition worked by earlier Chinese filmmakers in the Communist era. Other notable Fifth Generation directors include Wu Ziniu, Hu Mei, and Zhou Xiaowen. Some of their bolder works with political overtones were banned by Chinese authorities.

The Fourth Generation also returned to prominence. Given their label after the rise of the Fifth Generation, these were directors whose careers were stalled by the Cultural Revolution and who were professionally trained prior to 1966. Wu Tianming, in particular, made outstanding contributions by helping to finance major Fifth Generation directors under the auspices of the Xian Film Studio, while continuing to make films like Old Well (1986) and The King of Masks (1996).

The Fifth Generation movement effectively ended in the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, although its major directors continued to produce notable works, such as The Emperor's Shadow (1996) by Zhou Xiaowen. Several of its filmmakers went into self-imposed exile: Wu Tianming stayed in the United States, Huang Jianxin left for Australia, while many others went into television-related works.
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Chinese Cinema

The Sixth Generation and beyond, 1990s - present

The recent era has seen the "return of the amateur filmmaker" as state censorship policies have produced an edgy underground film movement loosely referred to as the Sixth Generation. These films are shot quickly and cheaply, which produces a documentary feel: long takes, hand-held cameras, ambient sound (see cinema verite). Many films are joint ventures and projects with international investment. Some important Sixth Generation directors to have emerged are Wang Xiaoshuai (The Days, Beijing Bicycle), Zhang Yuan (Beijing Bastards, East Palace West Palace), Jia Zhangke (Xiao Wu, Unknown Pleasures, Platform, The World), and Lou Ye (Suzhou River).

Unlike the Fifth Generation, the Sixth Generation brings a more individualistic, anti-romantic life-view and pays more attention to contemporary urban life, especially affected by disorientation.
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New documentaries

Two decades of reform and marketization have brought dramatic social changes in mainland China, reflected not only in fiction film. Wu Wenguang's Bumming in Beijing is now seen as the first work of the New Documentary Movement (NDM) in China. Another internationally acclaimed documentary is Wang Bing's epic nine hour tale of deindustrialization Tie Xi Qu ("West of tracks"). Li Hong, the first women in the NDM, in Out of Phoenix Bridge relates the story of four young women, who moving from rural areas to the big cities like millions of other men and women, have come to Beijing to make a living.
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Chinese international cinema

In 1999, the multi-national production Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon achieved massive success at the Western box office despite being disregarded by some Chinese cinema-goers as pandering to Western tastes. Nevertheless, it provided an introduction to Chinese cinema (and especially the Wuxia genre) for many and increased the popularity of many Chinese films which may have otherwise been relatively unknown to Westerners.

In 2002, Hero was made as a second attempt to produce a Chinese film with the international appeal of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The cast and crew featured many of the most famous Chinese actors who were also known to some extent in the West, including Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, directed by Zhang Yimou. The film was a phenomenal success in most of Asia and topped the U.S. box office for two weeks, making enough in the U.S. alone to cover the production costs.

The successes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero blur what may be called the boundary between Mainland Chinese cinema and a more international-based "Chinese-language cinema". Crouching Tiger, for example, was made by a Taiwanese director (Ang Lee), but its leads include Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland Chinese actors and actresses while the funding is from overseas. This merging of people, resources, and expertise from three regions (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) seemed to imply big-budgeted Chinese-language cinema is moving toward an international arena looking to compete with the best Hollywood films. Further examples of films in this would include House of Flying Daggers (2004), The Promise (2005) and The Banquet (2006). However, tighter-financed Chinese-language cinema are still relatively localized in content as seen in those from Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, especially in the latter two where many of the films have not yet found international distributors abroad.
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