The second wave of Chinese art film : film system, film style, and alternative film culture of the 1990s

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2010-08

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Yang, Li, 1975 October 23-

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the development of Chinese art film in the 1990s. It explores the mechanisms that were conducive to the emergence of this art wave and its representative cinematic styles. Art film was a historically underdeveloped film practice in China, especially under the mass line-dominated Socialist film system. I argue that Chinese art cinema was fundamentally defined by the second art wave, which was flanked by the first art wave (the Fifth Generation Cinema) of the 1980s, and the full capitalization of the film industry in the new millennium. The key to understanding the second art wave was the paradoxical industrial process of the Socialist film system reform of the 1990s. The controlled top-down reform made the emergence of independent production possible while at the same time denying its legitimacy. As the result, the Chinese art film production breathed new life but was pushed from the mainstream to the realm of the alternative. In alliance with other youth subculture phenomena of the time, such as rock music and avant-garde art, art film came to be defined as a distinctive position in the field of Chinese film production in terms of the mode of production (mostly independent), distribution (international film festivals), and film style. Three styles are examined in detail in this dissertation: the documentary-inspired new realist style represented by films of Jia Zhangke, the modernistic expressionist style represented by films of He Jianjun, Zhang Ming, and others, and the style that falls in-between the new realist and expressionist style represented by early films of Zhang Yuan, Lou Ye, and Wang Xiaoshuai.

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