Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

19 08 2010

Only one film tonight.

Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

Synopsis: A documentary about gender and sexual orientation in Chinese cinema since the 1930s.

Super awesome things: This is a rare glimpse into Chinese films dating as early as the 1930s, which I had never seen before.  Because of Stanley Kwan’s access to the Chinese film archives, we get a superb look at China and Hong Kong’s history of films.  Included are also interviews with Chinese filmmakers including Ang Lee, John Woo, and Hsaio-hsein Hou, who give their opinions on their own films, possibly undertones of homosexuality/queerness, and their views on the subjects.  Also, Stanley Kwan’s mother is awesome.

Not so super awesome things: To be fair, the film was made in 1996, so it’s almost 15 years old, and the quality of the film definitely shows.  There are very close up on the interviewees for no paticular reason, it seemed, and on a big screen, was very in-your-face.  Though the film is only an hour, it did feel a little a long, and I didn’t get a good sense of the current state of Chinese cinema or where it might be heading — would Chinese cinema become more open to gay characters?  How about Chinese culture and its attitudes towards queerness?  Is it changing?  The most frustrating part of the film was the inaccurate subtitles.  Being able to mostly understand Cantonese, I could see how for the most part, there was a lot lost in translation.  Subtitles up on screen would be serious and yet the interviewees would say funny things and so a small portion of the audience would laugh, while others only saw what was up there.  My friend who sat next to me could understand Mandarin, and I believe he was also frustrated at the Mandarin parts (he threw up his hands in the middle of the movie and I think he said, “That’s not what he/she said.”).  And sometimes the interviewees would say English words that wouldn’t even appear in the subtitles, which is obviously wrong, and the meaning of what they were saying was slightly different.  I don’t know why it was so hard to get an accurate translation.

Good for watching:  to watch some clips of old Chinese films.  And to see Leslie Cheung while he was still alive.   😦

Overall:  Good, a little long and slow at parts, but interesting nonetheless.

Grade:  B-