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Cinema Approaching Reality

Locating Chinese Film Theory

2015
Author:

Victor Fan

Cinema Approaching Reality

Examines ways in which Chinese and Euro-American film theorists conceptualize reality and cinema

In Cinema Approaching Reality, Victor Fan brings together, for the first time, Chinese and Euro-American film theories and theorists to engage in critical debates about film in Shanghai and Hong Kong from the 1920s through the 1940s. The result is an eye-opening exploration of the potentialities in approaching cinema anew, especially in the photographic materiality following its digital turn.

An eye-opening exploration of the possibilities of approaching cinema anew, in its photographic materiality, after the digital turn.

Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University

In Cinema Approaching Reality, Victor Fan brings together, for the first time, Chinese and Euro-American film theories and theorists to engage in critical debates about film in Shanghai and Hong Kong from the 1920s through the 1940s. His point of departure is a term popularly employed by Chinese film critics during this period, bizhen, often translated as “lifelike” but best understood as “approaching reality.” What these Chinese theorists mean, in Fan’s reading, is that the cinematographic image is not a form of total reality, but it can allow spectators to apprehend an effect as though they had been there at the time when an event actually happened.

Fan suggests that the phrase “approaching reality” can help to renegotiate an aporia (blind spot) that influential French film critic André Bazin wrestled with: the cinematographic image is a trace of reality, yet reality is absent in the cinematographic image, and the cinema makes present this absence as it reactivates the passage of time. Fan enriches Bazinian cinematic ontology with discussions on cinematic reality in Republican China and colonial Hong Kong, putting Western theorists—from Bazin and Kracauer to Baudrillard, Agamben, and Deleuze—into dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. The result is an eye-opening exploration of the potentialities in approaching cinema anew, especially in the photographic materiality following its digital turn.

Cinema Approaching Reality

Victor Fan is lecturer in film studies at King’s College London. He has contributed extensively to academic journals, including Screen, Film History, and Camera Obscura.

Cinema Approaching Reality

An eye-opening exploration of the possibilities of approaching cinema anew, in its photographic materiality, after the digital turn.

Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University

Erudite, thought-provoking and lucidly composed. Cinema Approaching Reality fills a giant gap in Chinese film studies as the first comprehensive and imaginative study of key theoretical debates on cinema in China and Hong Kong before 1950. More importantly, Victor Fan bridges or reestablishes the historical and philosophical connections between the Chinese discourses and Western film theory within the global context of modernity, capitalism, and imperialism, while offering refreshing insights into the life or temporality of the moving image in the wake of the digital turn.

Zhen Zhang, New York University

A fascinating study.

CHOICE

Cinema Approaching Reality

Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration
Introduction
1. Approaching Reality: Chinese Ontology and the Potentiality of Time
2. Cinema of Thought: Directed Consciousness in Chinese Marxist Film Theory
3. Soft Film Theory: Life in All Its Presence and Concreteness
4. Fey Mou: The Presence of an Absence
5. Cinema of Ideation, Cinema of Play: The Early Cantonese Sound Film
Conclusion
Notes
Filmography
Index