Beyond language: the postmodern poetics of Ang Lee’s adaptation of Lust/ Caution Shaoyan Ding
Based on Robert Stam’s notion of filmic adaptation as a cultural critique and through a detailed analysis of the postmodernist styles of intertextuality, dissolving the history, parodic representation, and the body narrative in the filmic text, this article argues that Ang Lee’s film Lust/Caution (2007) adapted from Eileen Chang’s fiction Lust, caution is a re-creation embedded with subtle and significant cultural politics. It can be seen as an intellectual endeavour to problematise the ideological assumptions of Self and the Other, history, identity and nationalism, to deconstruct the multiple forms of power that have enslaved human beings, women in particular, and to demonstrate his hope for equality, tolerance and coexistence in human society. In a word, Ang Lee’s cinematic adaptation, going far beyond Eileen Chang’s representation of private experiences, is an intellectual process of cultural poetics that subverts the mythic language of nationalism and national identity. Keywords: adaptation, body poetics, history, identity, intertextuality, nationalism, parody
Adapted from Eileen Chang’s short story Lust, caution ( Lust/Caution has created heated debates among critics within Chinese cultural circles since its release in 2007. Articles (Dai 2008: 92–93; Lee 2008: 157–192;
Shaoyan Ding is affiliated to the Faculty of English Language and Culture, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou. email@example.com ISSN 0256-0046/Online 1992-6049 pp. 88–101 © Critical Arts Projects & Unisa Press
25 (1) 2011 DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2011.552212
Beyond language: the postmodern poetics of Ang Lee’s adaptation of Lust/Caution
Chinese people’ while destroying morality and the justice of Chinese nationalist text inscribed with the signs of fashion, identity and the nostalgic remembrance of Shanghai in the 1940s (Dai 2008: 92–93). However, such criticism of Lust/Caution still lingers on the ‘ghost’ of Eileen Chang: the arguments tend to be made based on Chang’s life experiences and her writing, as well as the issues concerned with her, as these critics tend to identify Lee’s work with Chang’s, ignoring Lee’s adaptation as a recreated text with its own vigour and agency. This article attempts to explore the Lust/Caution from the postmodern perspective, focusing on controversial writers in the history of modern Chinese literature, one with uncertainty and complexity in identity in the literary circle of China, due to her ingenuous writing style and much-debated personal life (her marriage to Hu Lancheng ( ), a pro-Japanese man of letters during the Japanese invasion of China). For this particular life experience, in the 30 years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chang and her writing were literarily unavailable and therefore unknown to readers in Mainland China until the 1980s, when A history of (Hsia 1961) was introduced there, which created immense interest in Chang’s work. The critical debates have been focused on two points: Chang’s identity as a writer and her writing style. In fact, Chang’s complex identity as a woman writer is often the focus of critical attention. Lust, caution (2007), where Chang’s Wang Jiazhi. In fact, Chang gives us a writer’s argument for weaving the private into the disrespect for privacy does not mean peeping at other people, but more or less with Wang Jiazhi, the character, Chang ‘feels so shocked’ as to be engaged in words, characterisation in the story and the subject of love and betrayal actually come from Chang’s tragic experiences of love and marriage. As she comments on her love experiences (and also Wang Jiazhi’s), ‘when one loves somebody, one does not do so because one considers it worthwhile to love the person’ (ibid: 280). It means that love is a human sentiment detached from any...
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