Chungking Express

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Journal of Chinese Cinemas Volume 3 Number 2 © 2009 Intellect Ltd Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/jcc.3.2.163/1

Made in China, sold in the United States,
and vice versa - transnational 'Chinese'

cinema between media capitals
Yiman Wang University of California,Santa Cruz
Abstract
This articleconsiders the reconfigurationof 'Chinese' cinema in the international media capitals. By analysing the US marketing of Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express and Zhang Yimou's Hero, both mediated by Quentin Tarantino,I emphasize Tarantino's role in facilitating a border-crossing eeding loop of production, f

exhibition and reception. This is crystallizedin the success of DreamWork's Kung Fu Panda. The three films demonstrate a switch from made in China, sold in the United States to the reverse direction. The completion of the feeding loop requires that we re-recognize 'Chinese' cinema as cinema made with 'Chinese elements' that are dissociatedfrom a geographicallocation or national identity, and are consequently extracted, appropriated nd produced by internationalmedia capitals. a

What makes Chinese cinema 'Chinese'? What is not so 'Chinese' about Chinese cinema? To what extent does foreignized 'Chinese' cinema contribute to its transnationalization? I explore these questions in this study of transnational translation, exhibition, reception and production of contemporary Chinese cinema. I emphasize the importance of re-recognizing Chinese cinema, which means to problematize the reifying epistemological model fixated on the subject-object, Self-Other binary, and to refocus on their interweaving transactions and mutual constitution. In the context of exhibiting Chinese cinema to the western audience, it means to study the role of western exhibition in reconstituting Chinese cinema. The border-crossing feeding loop of cinematic address, response and recalibration constitutes the very conditions for transnational Chinese cinema. Importantly, the bordercrossing translation is by no means neutral and free-flowing, but rather entails specific border politics.

To delineate border politics that underpins the processes of re-recognizing and reconstituting Chinese cinema, I examine the US marketing of Chinese films, including the US trailer (in comparison with the Chinese trailer) and DVD packaging. I focus on a key figure of mediation - Quentin Tarantino, whose name looms large on the US DVD cover of two major cross-over Chinese-language films - Chungking Express/Chongqing senlin (Wong Kar Wai, 1994) and Hero/Yingxiong (Zhang Yimou, 2002). Importantly, Tarantino does not simply fulfil a prescribed commercial or industrial role. Rather, he actively mobilizes his cult power to enable the

JCC 3 (2) pp. 163-176 © Intellect Ltd 2009

163

Keywords
transnational 'Chinese'
cinema
Chinese elements
Quentin Tarantino
marketing difference
feedback loop
media capital

1.

The film was
most recently rereleased by Criterion
Collection on 25
November 2008.
Following Criterion's
educational agenda,
this version uses Tony
Rayns as the authoritative commentator,
in place of Tarantino.

delivery (i.e. both birthing and carrying over) of selected Chinese-language films to the American audience. His self-assigned 'surrogate parent' or midwife status compels us to study the border politics inherent in the border-crossing production and exhibition of Chinese cinema. Quentin Tarantino distributes Chungking Express

Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express received its US theatrical release on 8 March 1996, and was the first film distributed on DVD (in 2002) by 1
Quentin Tarantino's company, Rolling Thunder, associated with Miramax. The DVD case of the US version illustrates the significance of the 'surrogate parent' by conspicuously placing his name, his image and his company (IMAGE 1). In comparison, the three snapshots of the film's main characters look pale and fuzzy; and the director's name, Wong Kar Wai, is virtually...
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