Cambria Press is pleased to announce a new publication The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion by Christopher Lupke (Washington State University). This book is in the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania) and the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts Series headed by John Clum (Duke University).
This book will be launched at the upcoming 2016 Association of Asian Studies (AAS) conference in Seattle.
The following are excerpts from the book.
Chapter 1: The Odyssey of Hou Hsiao-hsien
“The odyssey of Hou Hsiao-hsien, a director now in his late sixties, is an unfinished one. Audiences look forward to his constant interrogation of the boundaries of film representation, his wonderful creativity and courage, and his obsessive honing of signature techniques. … he made full use of his training and talent, as well as his collaborative relationships with such important intellectuals as Zhu Tianwen and Wu Nianzhen and technical geniuses such as Du Duzhi, Liao Qingsong, Li Pingbin, and Huang Wenying. When many filmmakers concede to the demands of global capitalistic aesthetics, Hou unwaveringly pursues his craft, disregarding the received viewing conventions of the film public and redefining them at the same time. His is a visionary art whereby he is as restless and uncomfortable as are many film aficionados.” (pp. 37-38)
Chapter 2: Zhu Tianwen and the Sotto Voce of Gendered Expression
“The influence of Zhu in the film production cannot be underestimated but is difficult to completely distill without resorting to detailed autobiographical and interview evidence about each and every film. For instance, one can tell from interviews of Hou and Zhu, often conducted jointly, as well as various essays that Zhu Tianwen has written, that there has been a symbiotic, even synergistic, energy at work in their artistic and professional relationship.” (pp. 47-48)
Chapter 3: Comparing Hou Hsiao-hsien and Ozu Yasujirô
“Notably, in spite of whatever uncanny resemblances may exist between the cinematic style of Ozu and Hou, especially in Hou’s works up until his 1989 classic A City of Sadness, Hou insists that he had never seen an Ozu film all the way through to that point and therefore could not have been influenced by him except perhaps in some general fashion that perhaps all intellectuals in Taiwan are influenced to one extent or another by, for lack of a better word, what one might call ‘the Japanese aesthetic.’” (pp. 78-79)
Chapter 4: The Muted Interstices of Testimony
“The dissection of these particular sequences [in A City of Sadness] leads to the conclusion that a large measure of the film’s import rests on the fact that just as political repression is a form of silencing, the silent witness Wenqing (Fourth Brother) enacts the very problem of communication which the February 28 Incident creates and the critics of A City of Sadness deplore. Therefore, it is not so much that Hou Hsiao-hsien has failed to put forth a film that adequately represents this historical truth, nor that he has acted on behalf of the Guomindang, wittingly or unwittingly, to present a politically suspect whitewash of the affair, but that his representation of the event contains within itself the seeds of its own skepticism. Hou’s film implies that a pristine recapitulation of the February 28 Incident is no longer accessible and in fact itself would serve to undermine the most important element of political repression: the silencing of contending voices.” (pp. 114-115)
Chapter 5: Time and Teleology in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Films of Quest and Disillusionment
“That his characters do not accomplish what they set out to, that they do not get to where they always seem to be going, that the spectator is left to puzzle over the apparently unfinished quality of his carefully wrought paeans to the quotidian is a responsibility that Hou places on the spectator. Hou’s audiences are left to ponder the awful ennui of his characters and the curiously tentative conclusions of his films. … The circular logic of Hou’s film narratives illusively structured as teleological journeys echoes the feelings of vulnerability its inhabitants hold for Taiwan, an island entity with no official status as a nation, whose denizens have nowhere to which they can flee and no option of expanding its economy within its borders.” (p. 192)
Chapter 6: What is Said and Left Unsaid in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Period Adaptations
“Even for Hou Hsiao-hsien, Flowers of Shanghai (1998) is a film that presses the bounds of feature filmmaking. … Despite the fact that Hou Hsiao-hsien has said in an interview that Millennium Mambo is a contemporary version of Flowers of Shanghai, the latter does not even contain the narrative voiceover to guide the spectator as the former does.1 The audience is forced to puzzle over the meaning and implications of the film, an alienating experience even for Chinese and Taiwanese audiences due to its period setting. (p. 209)
“Watching Hou Hsiao-hsien’s most recent film The Assassin carefully and repeatedly, one comes to the initial conclusion that it is a plot stripped of all excess, an adumbration of the full story of what happened to the heroine Nie Yinniang and of the historical circumstances surrounding the militarized province of Weibo where the film is set. While this is true, it is deceiving too because The Assassin is also a colossal reinterpretation of the original Tang-dynasty classical tale “Nie Yinniang,” and the film version and particularly the screenplay endow it with a cornucopia of newly created material that the authors drew both from historical research and from their imaginations.” (p.215)
See also Author Interview with Christopher Lupke.