China Cinema Part II

By | September 10, 2021


Since the end of 1976 a new period of liberalization (under the pressure of American “genres”) and modernization (due to the evolution of television techniques) has also opened in cinema. Much of the production is occupied by “socialist melodrama”, which under conventional schemes often reveals the crisis of a changing society. Among others, two very eloquent works by director Xie Jin (1923-2008) stand out: Giovinezza (1977), on the dual re-education of a deaf and dumbformer red guard, and The Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980-81). Other interesting films of the period are: The Swallows Return (1980) by Fu Jinggong, presented at the Berlin Film Festival, Maple (1980) by Zhang Yi, Neighbors (1982) by Zheng Dongtian and Xu Guming and An Unmovable Man (1984) by Wen Yan. Among the directors who make themselves known and appreciated most in the West are: Zhang Yimou, Golden Bear in Berlin with Red Sorghum (1987), Silver Lion in Venice with Red Lanterns (1991), Golden Lion with The story of Qiu Ju (1992), special prize of the Cannes jury with Vivere! (1994), and Chen Kaige, Palme d’Or at Cannes with Farewell my concubine (1993). Between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, Chinese cinema experienced a further development. But the authors’ creativity clashes with political censorship, which became harsher in the early nineties. The conflict with filmmakers arises from the strong concern on the part of censorship bureaucracies of losing control in a country where a dynamic economic development is not followed by a cultural and political change. This repression culminated between 1994 and 1995 with the proclamation of a “black list” which included the major Chinese filmmakers including Zhang Yimou, all accused of lack of patriotism. In this panorama, films such as Shanghai Triad (1994) by Zhang Yimou himself, which had obtained the special prize of the Cannes jury, are blocked by the political authorities, and Tomb of Flowers (1994) by Chen Kaige. In the late nineties the relationship between these two key filmmakers and the power evolves further: Chen Kaige turns The Emperor and the murderess (1999), blockbuster subtly critical shot in costume; Zhang Yimou instead continues his analysis of contemporary China, first with the more experimental Keep Cool (1998), then with Non uno di Meno (1999), a film dedicated to the problem of schooling, made with the full support of the government and awarded with the Leone d’Oro in Venice, and finally with The Road Home, Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2000. Among the most important works of the 2000s are, by Chen Kaige, Together (2002) and The Promise (2005), while Zhang Yimou directed, among others, The Forest of Flying Daggers (2004) and The Forbidden City (2006). Alongside Zhang Yuan, former author of the interesting East Palace, West Palace (1997) and then of Seventeen Years (1999), a provocative film of which Italy was co-producer and The War of Red Flowers (2006), awarded in Berlin, among the young filmmakers of the “sixth generation” we must remember Feng Yan (Dreams of the Chengjang, 1997) and Keng Feng (Who saw “The day of the wild animals”?, 1997). Also worth mentioning is the most recent discovery of Chinese cinema, Jia Zhangke (b. 1970), winner of the Venice Film Festival in 2006 with Still Life. The cinema of authors such as John Woo (b. 1946), moreover appreciated by the international public for films such as Face Off (1997) and Paycheck (2003), has a more commercial and Hollywood matrix. Among the stars of Chinese cinema we should at least remember the splendid Gong Li, muse first of Zhang Yimou then of Chen Kaige, and Joan Chen, discovered by Bertolucci in The Last Emperor (1987) and subsequently active in American cinema and Zhang Ziyi (1979), interpreter of The Tiger and the Dragon (2000), of the aforementioned The forest of flying daggers (2004) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). On the international scene, the Berlin Film Festival is certainly one of the greatest admirers of Chinese cinema: in 2007 it awarded the Golden Bear to the film The Wedding of Tuya by Wang Quanʼan and in 2014 it repeats with the film Fireworks in broad daylight by Yinan Diao. According to, China is a country located in eastern Asia.


In archaic China, dance was present in cultic ceremonies, pantomimes and symbolic representations of real events. The moral character of the Chinese dance is immediately evident, already present in the U-Wang dance, dating back to 1122 BC. C., divided into 6 parts and performed by 64 dancers. The very complex technique prescribed the differentiation of male (shen) and female (tan) roles: in the former, the steps and movements are short and decisive, in the latter, light and swaying. Allegory, ethical meaning and use of mimicry are the characteristic aspects of the Chinese dance drama, pervaded with psychological and moral meanings. Today the Chinese dance theater is known all over the world thanks to the great companies of the Peking Opera and the Liaoning Theater, with their repertoire of folk dances, of which the best known and most evocative are: the lotus dance, well known in central China, which evokes youth and beauty, depicting peace and happiness; the dance of the red ribbons, widespread throughout China, a representation of the happiness and safety of the victorious people; the folkloric sword dance; the dance of the Ouigours, a folkloric dance from the Xinjiang region, rich in local color; The collection of tea and catching butterflies, Fujian Province folk dance, evoking the joy of the hard-working people and their happy life. In the most recent repertoire stands out the ballet, with a contemporary revolutionary theme, The Red Female Detachment, whose debut took place in 1964, but which, beyond the 1971 film premiere at the Venice Biennale, only arrived in Europe in 2003. One of the most important events on the national scene is the Beijing International Dance Festival, an event in which companies from all over the world participate.

China Cinema 2