Sample Film and Theater Studies Essay Paper on Teahouse, shadowplay, bricolage: Laborer’s love and the question of early Chinese cinema

Reading Response

  1. Lee’s Reading

Modernization brought about various changes in the art and commerce sectors. While China was rushing towards modernization, it resulted into various reality issues especially in their culture. The Western nations had a huge influence in Chinese modernization leading to a blend of both new and indigenous ideas in the urban culture. Leo Ou-fan Lee managed to capture this reality of the Chinese urban culture focusing mostly on their urban theatres and cinemas where their new lifestyle had flourished the most. He takes a deeper toll and guided the readers through the filmmaking industry where various urban life and style of living was depicted by the 20th century artists.

One thing that is eminent from this Lee’s reading is that he has evoked some stunning sensibility in modern Chinese cinema. The claim that Chinese films which were produced in the 1930s during the milieu were mainly meant for entertainment purposes and also to bring leisure into the community is true. This was evident by the rise in number of people who were visiting the new movie theatres and also to the cinemas to enjoy the new urban lifestyle. I, therefore agree with Lee’s hypothesis reading the Chinese cinemas connecting the people of China to the new urban setting while promoting a new lifestyle of entertainment and leisure (Lee 75). However, the fact that majority of the films which were shown in the theatres were Hollywood ones and not Chinese films clearly shows the ways in which Western culture had played an important role in modernization of Chinese culture. For instance, the film that we watched in class was Hollywood which shows that even now the Western culture is still incorporated in Chinese lifestyle.

In regards to the popularity of the movies creating room for new commercial cultures such as magazines and columns to flourish is a clear indication that a new urban lifestyle had immerged in China (Lee 77). The emergence of Shanghai newspaper and the independent film magazine clearly shows that a new commercial culture had been established in the nation which created employment for several people. I can say that these new filmmaking and publishing industries were able to nurture new artists which improved the Chinese way of living while developing the “modeng” culture in the nation.

The strength of Lee’s article is based on the literary field which depicts his passion in literature and his own culture. Through the use of various images, he made it easy for me to see the real picture of change that he was talking about regarding the new Chinese modern lifestyle in the urban area. The only limitation that I identified from the reading was the heavy writing that prompted me to seek for meaning through the dictionary. However, regardless of this, the book is important in understanding the Chinese culture thus can be recommended to anyone who wants to know the ways in which the Chinese modern culture developed and its major influences.

  • Zhang’s Reading

Zhen Zhang decided to write the book to look into the history of Chinese cinemas especially the factors that contributed to its failures in the early years. According to him, the complexity of the Chinese culture could have contributed to Chinese cinema failure in history (Zhang 28). I believe that culture determines majority of lifestyles in a nation including the ways in which businesses are being operated. Since the Chinese culture was not that attractive in the 1940s, no one bothered to talk about Chinese cinema that ended up being highly neglected.

However, things changed because of the Western hybrid that allowed Chinese cinema to be interpretively accessed and analyzed (Zhang 30). This is the reason majority of American films had flooded the Chinese cinema and market regardless of the existence of their own. However, later, the incorporation of stylistic and thematic traditional arts of China helped in boosting the performance of Chinese cinema. At the same time, the films were highly preoccupied with the concept of urban lifestyle and theatrical performative arts (Zhang 31). 

One thing that is evident from this analysis of Chinese cinema history is the fact that Chinese people not only love their culture, but also appreciates other cultures too thus the reason they responded positively to the American films which covered mostly the American lifestyle. This is the reason when the Chinese film industry decided to mimic the Chinese lifestyle in their film productions, the Chinese cinema began to thrive and improved in regards to audience response and reception. The rate of appreciation was so high such that films became sources of entertainment and they could be shown in areas where acrobats, magicians, traditional operas, and firecrackers were performing (Zhang 32). At the same time, it helped in improving commercial performance in the nation. For instance, it is the same period that Chinese newspapers began to be produced in the nation.

I feel that Zheng’s book is detailed and comprehensive in regards to explaining the fall and rise of the Chinese film industry. The book can, therefore, be recommended to individuals who want to understand the history of Chinese cinema and film industry especially its development process.

Works Cited

Lee, Leo Ou-Pan.  The urban Milieu of Shanghai Cinema, 1930-40. Harvard University Press, 1999.

Zhang, Zhen. Teahouse, shadowplay, bricolage: Laborer’s love and the question of early Chinese cinema. Stanford University Press, 1999.