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Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas$
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Christine Gledhill

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036613

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036613.001.0001

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Woman, Generic Aesthetics, and the Vernacular

Woman, Generic Aesthetics, and the Vernacular

Huangmei Opera Films from China to Hong Kong

(p.177) Chapter 13 Woman, Generic Aesthetics, and the Vernacular
Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas

Xiangyang Chen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the hybrid origins of Hong Kong's Huangmei opera film. It shows how the Chinese Communist Party's demand for a cinema showcasing the national cultural past paradoxically facilitated the cross-border circulation of an indigenous, vernacular operatic tradition—featuring feisty rural women, female voice-over chanting, and frequent cross-dressing—into the modernizing idioms of Hong Kong's film industry. Under colonial suppression of local nationalist objectives, the resulting hybridized genre carried a vital female imaginary in nostalgic Chinese wrappings. In contrast to Indian cinema's culture of emotion, female performativity contests Chinese conventions of restraint, opening up imaginary female power. This is supported by the impact of the female voice on point-of-view shooting, spatial organization, and narrative structure, foregrounding, against Western feminism's focus on the male gaze, a female counter-gaze within a patriarchal drama of conflicting desires.

Keywords:   Huangmei opera film, Hong Kong film industry, Chinese Communist Party, genre, female performativity, female power

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