The Urban Generation

The Urban Generation

Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

  • Author: Zhang, Zhen; McGrath, Jason; Berry, Chris; Lu, Sheldon H.
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • ISBN: 9780822340539
  • eISBN Pdf: 9780822390008
  • Place of publication:  Durham , United States
  • Year of digital publication: 2007
  • Month: March
  • Pages: 464
  • DDC: 791.430951/09049
  • Language: English
Since the early 1990s, while mainland China’s state-owned movie studios have struggled with financial and ideological constraints, an exciting alternative cinema has developed. Dubbed the “Urban Generation,” this new cinema is driven by young filmmakers who emerged in the shadow of the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. What unites diverse directors under the “Urban Generation” rubric is their creative engagement with the wrenching economic and social transformations underway in China. Urban Generation filmmakers are vanguard interpreters of the confusion and anxiety triggered by the massive urbanization of contemporary China. This collection brings together some of the most recent original research on this emerging cinema and its relationship to Chinese society.

The contributors analyze the historical and social conditions that gave rise to the Urban Generation, its aesthetic innovation, and its ambivalent relationship to China’s mainstream film industry and the international film market. Focusing attention on the Urban Generation’s sense of social urgency, its documentary impulses, and its representations of gender and sexuality, the contributors highlight the characters who populate this new urban cinema—ordinary and marginalized city dwellers including aimless bohemians, petty thieves, prostitutes, postal workers, taxi drivers, migrant workers—and the fact that these “floating urban subjects” are often portrayed by non-professional actors. Some essays concentrate on specific films (such as Shower and Suzhou River) or filmmakers (including Jia Zhangke and Zhang Yuan), while others survey broader concerns. Together the thirteen essays in this collection give a multifaceted account of a significant, ongoing cinematic and cultural phenomenon.

Contributors. Chris Berry, Yomi Braester, Shuqin Cui, Linda Chiu-han Lai, Charles Leary, Sheldon H. Lu, Jason McGrath, Augusta Palmer, Bérénice Reynaud, Yaohua Shi, Yingjin Zhang, Zhang Zhen, Xueping Zhong

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Bearing Witness: Chinese Urban Cinema in the Era of ‘‘Transformation’’
  • Part I: Ideology, Film Practice, and the Market
  • Rebel without a Cause? China’s New Urban Generation and Postsocialist Filmmaking
  • The Independent Cinema of Jia Zhangke: From Postsocialist Realism to a Transnational Aesthetic
  • Getting Real: Chinese Documentary, Chinese Postsocialism
  • Part II: The Politics and Poetics of Urban Space
  • Tear down the City: Reconstructing Urban Space in Contemporary Chinese Popular Cinema and Avant-Garde Art
  • Tracing the City’s Scars: Demolition and the Limits of the Documentary Impulse in the New Urban Cinema
  • Scaling the Skyscraper: Images of Cosmopolitan Consumption in Street Angel (1937) and Beautiful New World (1998)
  • Whither the Walker Goes: Spatial Practices and Negative Poetics in 1990s Chinese Urban Cinema
  • Part III: The Production Of Desire And Identities
  • Ning Ying’s Beijing Trilogy: Cinematic Configurations of Age, Class, and Sexuality
  • Zhang Yuan’s Imaginary Cities and the Theatricalization of the Chinese ‘‘Bastards’’
  • Mr. Zhao On and Off the Screen: Male Desire and Its Discontent
  • Maintaining Law and Order in the City: New Tales of the People’s Police
  • Urban Dreamscape, Phantom Sisters, and the Identity of an Emergent Art Cinema
  • Appendix. The Urban Generation Filmmakers
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index


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